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CREATORS of The Tudors
The Creators of The TudorsTHE TUDORS is an Ireland-Canada co-production, executive produced by:
Morgan O’Sullivan for Octagon Films;
Benjamin Silverman and Teri Weinberg for Reveille Productions;
Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan for Working Title Films, and Sheila Hockin;
and is created, written and executive produced by Michael Hirst.
SHOWTIME presents the series in association with Peace Arch Entertainment.
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- Showtime Networks Inc. (SNI), a US based wholly-owned subsidiary of CBS Corporation.
- Octagon Films is an Irish film production company based at Ardmore Studios in Bray, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.
- Reveille Productions is an independently-owned television and motion picture studio and production company based in Los Angeles.
- Working Title Films is a British film production company, based in London, UK. The company was founded by in 1984 and it produces feature films and several television productions. Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan are the co-owners of the company.
-Peace Arch Entertainment Group Inc.(“PAE”) produces and acquires feature films and television programs for worldwide distribution. PAE is an Ontario corporation based in Toronto with offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver. (private investors)
* note BBC, CBC etc buy the rights to show the series and weren't involved in the production.
Writer & Executive Producer : Michael Hirst
“In movies, the writer is, beyond a certain point, incidental and a bit of a nuisance. But in series TV, the writer is God. And given the choice, I prefer to be God.”
The Deceivers (1988) - screenplay
Fools of Fortune (1990) - writer
Meeting Venus (1991) - writer
The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (1991) - writer
Elizabeth (1998) - writer
Giovane Casanova Il (2002) - writer
Elizabeth, the Golden Age (2007) - writer & executive producer
| Date of Birth: 1952 |
Place of Birth: United Kingdom
In an era of one-dimensional screenwriters, Michael Hirst stands out for his rare ability to combine historical drama with high entertainment. Prior to writing the entire first three seasons of THE TUDORS single-handedly, he is perhaps best
known for his sparkling screenplay of “Elizabeth,” starring Cate Blanchett, and has recently completed the follow-up “The Golden Age,” also directed by Shekhar Kapur. Among his other screenwriting credits are “Meeting Venus,” “The Ballad of the Sad Café,” “Fools Fortune” and “The Deceivers” starring
Interview April 2009:
What or who influenced you to enter the world of entertainment?
My entry into the film fraternity was purely accidental. I always thought of being an academic. While I was pursuing my academics, I came across English film director Nicolas Roeg, who persuaded me to write movie scripts. At first I was quite hesitant, but that’s what Nicolas loved because, in a way, that innocence offered me a liberation that’s needed to write screenplays.
You’ve written scripted films like Elizabeth. When will you direct films?
I don’t think that’s going to happen. I am not interested in directing films. During the shooting of Elizabeth, we were walking across the three sets and Shekhar mentioned how he wasn’t afraid of managing the scale and grandeur of such a large production. I, on the other hand, had a completely different view because I would prefer myrom blank sheet of paper any day.
Interview November 2009 (IFTN)
But how did it all start? What is it about Henry Tudor that inspired Michael Hirst to put pen to paper?
Many people still think of Henry as this big bloated fat guy that they see in portraits but that was only the case in the last years of his life. People know, or knew, very little about Henry’s early life and there are a lot of clichés about Henry and his wives which people have accepted uncritically and I was interested to examine and humanise these. And I was aware, of course, that it had to be entertaining because if drama isn’t entertaining it won’t work and, ultimately, it will be pulled.
|From the Production Notes of Season 4:|
Michael Hirst is writer and executive producer of The Tudors. In envisaging the series, he took the best known period of English history and dramatized it in a way no one had ever done before. With the unstinting support of Showtime, Michael set out to revisit and re-imagine a pivotal historical moment, a moment where one man dared to step outside the medieval world view, challenge the authority of the church and make himself the centre of authority. Showtime’s The Tudors has been compelling on many levels – the remarkable sets and costumes, the performances of gifted actors, the sexual intrigue, the ongoing, Machiavellian struggle for favour and power – but most of all perhaps, for Michael Hirst’s unmatched talent in imagining the drama and pulse of history.
Why were you drawn to this period of history to begin with?
Michael Hirst - The Tudors is a particularly interesting and dramatic period in English history because so much happens in such a concentrated time and, not only in an English sense but also in a global sense, the fact that the whole religion of England changed and you have the Reformation. But there was almost constant drama and commotion throughout the Tudor period – from Henry’s father – Henry VII - seizing the throne on the battlefield basically, right the way through to his daughter Elizabeth’s momentous defeat of the Spanish Armada. The constant insecurity during his reign meant that Henry killed over 70,000 of his own people (out of a total population of 1 million). The turmoil really only went away with Elizabeth – Henry’s second daughter. She reigned much longer than any other monarch and there was period of calm at the end, but of course she never married and never had children, so the Tudors came to an end with her.
What is the relationship of the show to actual history?
MH: Well, I’m not a historian - I rely on books written by historians - but I quickly discovered that all historians contradict each other, if you read enough of them, so the idea that there is one forensic truth and I at times depart from it isn’t really correct. The fact is that they all depart from it and contradict each other all the time. Of course, there are certain facts which are incontrovertible, but beyond that there’s just interpretation and there are surprisingly few sources. Most of the historical sources are tainted or in some ways not to be trusted. So I discovered that the truth is variable and within the period of The Tudors that I was working on I also discovered that most historians are very bad psychologists. They don’t tell you very much about the human relationships that, for example, Henry had with his wives, they always write off Anne Boleyn as rather shrewish, grasping and the ‘other woman’ and most of them have a huge distaste for her. Catherine of Aragon is usually a rather dull pious figure. They take Henry’s own valuation of Anne of Cleves that she was rather ugly and smelly, they say that Catherine Howard was very young and stupid and I’ve discovered through reading and thinking that nearly all these caricatures are nonsense or only tell a little bit of the story.
How did you go about structuring the 4 seasons?
MH: Well it wasn’t so much a plan as something that developed from season to season. I thought that the young Henry had never been never properly explored in film or TV so I began to try to imagine his relationship with different women and the court and then the whole arc of the character going from the young idealistic king to the old tyrant emerged over time. It was structured around time periods and significant events so the first season ends for instance with the death of Wolsey which was hugely significant for the young Henry. And when I came to think about the second series, I then was looking for another significant marker along the way which fairly quickly became the death of Anne Boleyn. He divorced his first wife who died of natural causes, but we know that Henry killed a lot of his wives, and Anne was the first one. So when he killed Ann Boleyn, he became a murderer from that moment. Then the marriages after that came quick and fast and the time began to concentrate, and that’s when I thought ideally I’d like four seasons to get the story told. I didn’t know if we’d get them, but I thought I needed four seasons and thankfully Showtime have supported us every step of the way.
Apart from his interest in power what else interested you about Henry VIII?
MH: The Tudors is also meant to be an extended essay on love – which might surprise some people! Marriage and sex is part of love, and he has different sorts of love affairs with his wives and with other women and they are different because he is changing all the time. So I was interested in marking those moments and as a viewer you see he is changing more through other people, through his relationships with those closest to him. There’s plenty to admire about Henry almost to the end although he becomes this monstrous figure but then his monstrosity is intriguing. He is always charismatic; you always want to know what he is going to do, partly because he has this power but also because you have followed him all this time.
It is very unusual for a single writer to write every single episode for four seasons of a series. What can you tell us about the writing process?
MH: I was scared to start with because I’d never written a series for TV and I’d no idea how to do it or if I could do it. But I found a facility within myself and particularly enjoyed the domestic drama and spending time with all the characters. It was a great joy to discover – as we went along - that a lot of the central characters went through a lot of the period with him so I could really get into their skins. It was never easy to write but it was always hugely enjoyable. I would spend a lot of time researching, reading and making notes also reading lots of footnotes because you find a lot of fantastic jewels in there. And then I’d spend a good deal of time just thinking.
How would you describe the arc of Season 4?
MH: Well we’re coming to the end of Henry’s life but things don’t slacken up - far from going out quietly Henry VIII goes out with an extraordinary bang. He’s in his late 40s which was quite old for the time and he marries an extremely young woman, who I think historically was 14 and totally unsuitable to be a queen. At the same time he finally goes to war – something he had always wanted to do. And then he marries again, for the final time. So it’s more turmoil and action to the very end.
Was the Siege of Boulogne some kind of mid-life crises?
MH: I think so. It was as if he’d bought that sports car. In a sense his marrying Catherine Howard was addressing this issue too, there’s no doubt reading the records that he was impotent when he married Anne of Cleves, and that was the problem, she wasn’t ugly and smelly. Which accounts for his rage and accounts for getting rid of her. So that’s why then he got involved with this young over sexualised woman and rediscovered his sexuality. Then going to war was another macho thing, he did say that he felt better and people said of him that he looked healthier. When he came back it all fell away. He felt sick again almost immediately.
What are your feelings about Henry by this stage of his life?
MH: Henry was at this stage unquestionably an unpleasant tyrant; it would be very hard to forgive him for his actions. I’ve tried to think of him as being aware at least sometimes of what he used to be and what he has lost. I think in killing Thomas Moore he tried to murder his conscience, I think he lost his idealism, he became persuaded by his own significance that he was just about as close to God as anyone in the world. Abroad he was referred to as the English Nero. In England, funnily enough, he has never been called to account for his monstrosities, which is interesting. I think we have convinced ourselves that he is the father of the Reformation and this was a good thing leading to Elizabeth, Shakespeare, the Empire, freedom of expression. We think of Henry therefore on the right side of history and forget what an appalling tyrant he was. But partly that’s because we’re still living in his legacy.
His last wife, Catherine Parr (Joely Richardson) is interesting in many ways – she seems more mature than anyone since Catherine of Aragon and also more Reformist than Henry.
MH: Yes, there a slight hint of a more motherly figure, someone who will take care of him. You do have a scene where she looks after his leg. That’s an iconic scene which you find in the historical record: A courtier comes and finds him with his leg in her lap and she’s just making him feel better, and stroking his leg.
As regards the Reformation there’s a big struggle by this time between the reformers, people we would now call the Protestants and the old guard the Catholics and at one stage one party seemed to have the upper hand, and fairly soon afterwards the other side would have the upper hand. Nobody really knew which side Henry came down, he probably played both sides against each other. But his Catherine Parr got caught up in the whispering campaign and it seemed for a moment that he had signed a death warrant for her. But there’s no question, she was a heretic, she rather openly discussed reform of the church. Why she felt she could get away with that I don’t know, she was an interesting woman, she was probably a very brave woman. In the end she was human, she broke down she screamed and shouted and pleaded for her life and Henry gave in.
The final moments of the season belong to the Dutch painter Hans Holbein. Why does he figure so prominently at the end?
MH: He was a device in the sense of someone who could comment through his painting on the court, so I identified with him. Just as he was painting pictures of the court, so I was telling my story. I always had a poet or a painter in every season and they were deliberately there because they were both in the action and outside commentating and I identified with each of them. So Holbein is me in a sense - right at the end drawing my picture and saying this is my Henry. People have got terribly confused and the wrong idea that I was doing some historical documentary. If I was doing a historical documentary I would have done it a different way, but with Holbein I’m saying that history has a lot to do with propaganda. How it comes to us is through other people, through painters, through people writing letters, it’s an amalgam of lots of things, there’s no such thing as a true picture. There are just versions you know, so it was a great delight for me to use Holbein in the end to make that point. I kind of sign off on that.
Michael Hirst with a team of Morris Dancers called "the side" who performed on the set for the May day scene - Season 2.
[photo by by Jonathan Hession]
with Tamzin Merchant ( Katherine Howard)
with James Frain ( Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex)
Morgan O'Sullivan and Michael Hirst accepting
an IFTN Award for the Tudors 2011
Matt Blank, Chairman and CEO of Showtime Networks with JRM and Robert Greenblatt, President of Entertainment for Showtime Networks Inc. where he is responsible for programming development,
scheduling, and acquisitions across all Showtime channels.
Executive Producer : Morgan O'Sullivan
| || Career Highlights |
P.S. I love you
The Blackwater Lightship
The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone
Reign of Fire
Tristan & Isolde
The Count of Monte Cristo
An Everlasting Piece
Angela's Ashes, The Nephew, Oliver Twist, Moll Flanders, Mystic Nights of Tir na nOg (Gaban); St. Patrick (Saban Entertainment); Animal Farm (Hallmark); David Copperfield (Hallmark); Durango (Hallmark Hall of Fame); Her Own Rules (CBS); Braveheart (Icon); Scarlett
| Date of Birth: 1946 |
Place of Birth: Ireland
Bio: Morgan O'Sullivan was born and educated in Dublin. He began his career in broadcasting with RTE and then went to Australia to work in various production management capacities. He also acted in a broadcasting capacity on TV and radio as an on-air announcer. Returning to Ireland three years later, he rejoined RTE and established himself as a major on-air celebrity with a weekly interview show broadcast on radio.Morgan is now the Managing Director of World 2000 Entertainment Ltd.
Morgan O’Sullivan as an Irish based producer has acted as an executive producer or co-producer on films such as “P.S I Love You,” “Braveheart,” “Angela’s Ashes,” “Animal Farm,” “David Copperfield,” “The Count of Monte Cristo” (2002), “Reign of Fire,” “Veronica Guerin,” “King Arthur,” “Ella Enchanted,”
and “Becoming Jane.” Prior to producing films for theatrical and television release he was a leading broadcaster in Ireland with the national broadcasting service Radio Telifis Éireann (RTE) presenting a daily radio program. He also acted as Managing Director of Ardmore Studios during the 1980s. He is a former
member of Bord Scánann na hÉireann / The Irish Film Board.
However, O'Sullivan (62) himself said the cornerstone of the period drama was writer Michael Hirst, whose screen credits include 1998 Oscar- winning film Elizabeth."It's Michael's vision we're trying to make happen," he says. "But along with Michael, you have Irish directors like Brian Kirk, Ciaran Donnelly and Dearbhla Walsh, and a huge team, including Tom Conroy our set designer, and Joan Bergin our Emmy-winning costume designer.
O'Sullivan said about the prospect of the king's weight gain later in life: "We still want him to be appealing. We don't want to destroy his good looks. An exact portrayal of Henry is not a factor that we think is important."
Morgan O'Sullivan with Michael Hirst, Seamus McInernery &
James Flynn accepting the IFTA for Best Drama Series / Soap
Jonathan Rhys Meyers giving credit to Morgan O'Sullivan
Maria Doyle Kennedy and producer Morgan O'Sullivan arrive at the New York premiere of Showtime's 'The Tudors' on March 28, 2007 in New York City.
Morgan O'Sullivan accepts the honorary award on behalf of Jonathan Rhys Meyers during the 4th annual "Oscar Wilde: Honoring The Irish In Film" awards held at The Ebell Club of Los Angeles on February 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.
with Natalie Dormer
Morgan can be seen behind Annabelle Wallis
- the "new" Jane Seymour - Season 3
|NEWS : What is the next project for the Creators?|
Date: November 10th, 2008
Title: Showtime Picks Up a New Series Entitled 'Camelot'
Showtime and BBC's partnership works on a new upcoming series project, "Camelot", a contemporary retelling of the history of Camelot.
Showtime has picked up a new series project which will be titled "Camelot". The network will make a collaboration with BBC to develop the new series which is described as a contemporary retelling story of Camelot's true history.
Production team that will work for the series including Michael Hirst and Morgan O'Sullivan, "The Tudors" creators. Hirst who also has several credits on "Elizabeth" movie (1998) and the sequel " Elizabeth:The Golden Age" (2007) will be responsible as the series' executive producer and the scripts' writer along with O'Sullivan and Douglas Rae.
"Camelot" is planned to be produced by Ecosse Films and Octagon Filmes, while Showtime and BBC cooperate to co-finance the development of the series' scripts project. The casts, airdates, and other details about "Camelot" are to be determined further.
Meanwhile, Showtime has recently finished producing the third season of "The Tudors" which will be premiered in April 2009.
|Date: January 9, 2010|
Source: Zap 2 it.com
"The Tudors" is ending this year, but Showtime is firing up another historical drama for 2011.
The cable channel will re-team with "Tudors" creator Michael Hirst and filmmaker Neil Jordan for "The Borgias," a series about the notorious Renaissance-era family. Jeremy Irons ("Reversal of Fortune," "Georgia O'Keeffe") will star as Rodrigo Borgia, the family's patriarch, in his first series-regular role.
Jordan ("The Crying Game," "The Brave One") created the show and will direct at least the first two episodes, Showtime chief Robert Greenblatt said Saturday (Jan. 9) at the TV critics association press tour. Hirst, who wrote every episodes of "The Tudors," will be the head writer on "The Borgias" as well.
Showtime has ordered 10 episodes of the show, which will begin filming in the summer. Greenblatt says the series is expected to premiere in early 2011.
with Jonathan Rhys Meyers
on the set of season 1.
Directed Season 1 Episodes 9 & 10
& Season 2 Episodes 1 - 10
He is the Chairman of the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland.
Season 1 Episodes 7 & 8
a Canadian film director of music videos, short films, television (episodes of Sex & the City, The Tudors, Homicide. Life On the Streets), commercials and feature films.
|From the Production notes for Season 4 : |
Ciaran Donnelly is one of three directors (Dearbhla Walsh, Jeremy Podeswa) working on Season 4 of The Tudors. Overall, Ciaran has directed directed five episodes from the current season and over half of the total episodes for the series. We asked him about his role in bringing Michael Hirst’s vision to the screen.
Given that The Tudors is such a writer-led TV show, what is the job and responsibility of the director, and how does it compare to other shows that you’ve worked on?
CD: What’s unique and interesting about The Tudors is that most TV is formatted but this show is not. What that means is that episodic television tends to be highly repetitive: the same kinds of things happen at the same points in each episode. The Tudors isn’t like that; it tells one long narrative story of the life of Henry VIII. That means that there is no format to follow, so when a director comes into work on this show there is something new in each script - new characters, new storylines, new locations and so on. If you look for example at the first four episodes of season 3 which involves the rebellion, the so called Pilgrimage of Grace, there hasn’t been anything like it up to that point and the same thing is true of the Siege of Boulogne in Season 4. These are entirely different kinds of production from the scene set in the studio. But The Tudors is also different from many shows in that it has a huge visual element. Partly this is because of the amazing sets and costumes that comes with a period piece of course. But its more than that; the style of the show has evolved from what we, as directors, have done with what’s in front of the camera.
Has the style of The Tudors developed over four seasons?
CD: When I first went to meet (Producer) Morgan O’Sullivan I asked him if there was a fixed style for the show and he said ‘no’; that the style was the sets and the costumes and that provided a freedom within which to work. So the visual style has evolved with the directors as well as the designers.
|Does your direction on the show have a particular style? |
CD: I shoot in a way that one of the producers described as ‘cinematic television’. It’s hard to explain what that means but my direction on The Tudors is a combination of large scale shots (as opposed to lots of tight close-ups of characters talking all the time), keeping the camera moving, blocking the camera moving in such a way that keeps the acting and the scene edgy and dynamic. Of course, its dictated by what’s happening in the scene, but generally I try to use the camera as a storytelling tool, not simply something that observes the action. Traditionally, TV directing is most interested in covering the actors and the dialogue but we’re tried to move this closer to cinema. We have really amazing costumes and sets and part of the directors job here is to show that off and enhance the scripts in as visual a manner as possible while also giving each storyline its own tone - be it political, personal or whatever.
The extended narrative of The Tudors moves in cycles: Henry has a succession of enemies, advisors, wives and executions. Is repetition an issue over such a long period?
CD: Yes it is. I’ve done quite a number of executions over the course of the past four seasons and each of them has its own individual visual style; otherwise the audience is simply going to think, ‘oh well here’s another execution’ without seeing the particular meaning of each one. So for instance the execution of Thomas More (Jeremy Northam) I was very much trying to get the terror and loneliness of what it might feel like to be up there on that platform before some man is about to cut your head off. At that time there was a lot of awful news coming out of Iraq about beheadings and I suppose that influenced the very in which I thought of the scene from the point of view of the person about to be executed. So in that scene we shot it from the platform looking down at the crowd. In this season we have the execution of Katherine Howard which I took from a very different point of view. My interpretation of the scene and the character is that she has been used and in fact lusted after by the men of Henry’s court. She’s a very young girl who has been offered to the King as a kind of plaything.
|So I see her as a lost innocent in a very masculine and cruel world. Normally we stage our executions within the walls of the Tower of London but in her case we’ve moved it to a town square where there will be a much bigger and more varied crowd who kind of stand in for the audience. I want to show a sense of collective bewilderment and even horror that such a young girl should be executed by the King at his whim.|
So, this execution has a very different feel: the shots are quite slow, the editing has its own pace, and the crowd is totally silent. Its also staged in such a way that she is executed after her lady in waiting which only serves to underline her own terror as she approaches the bloody block.
By way of contrast, the executions of her former lovers Dereham and Culpepper are rowdy, riotous affairs - like some kind of Saturday afternoon football match, reflecting the fact that no one felt any sympathy at all for them. The camerawork in those is all hand held and shot right down amongst the crowd so we feel what it might have been like to go out and ‘enjoy’ an execution - shouting, throwing vegetables and all the rest - in Tudor times. it’s a total circus.
Do you spend a long time preparing your shooting?
CD: Yes, going through the script and thinking about the ways in which each scene might be shot and what would work most effectively. And then, anything that takes place outside the studio sets will be storyboarded - the executions, fighting, the uprising and so on.
What has offered you the most pleasure in Season 4?
CD: Well, there has been great variety in the scripts this season and great scope for doing interesting things. But the last two episodes are particularly wonderful and extremely visual. What’s interesting in the way we portray Henry VIII are the glimpses of a very mortal, vulnerable being and in the final scenes there is a suggestion that Henry begins to see himself in a more vulnerable light than at any time over the 4 seasons. I don’t know if Jonathan Rhys Meyers would agree with that interpretation but I see my role as mediating the story for the audience.
Place of Birth: 1968
Bio: Popular British historian Justin Pollard received his MA and BA from St Albans School and Downing College Cambridge. He worked for years as an archealogist with the Museum of London and worked on the excavation of Thomas Becket's monastery Merton Priory. After leaving the Museum in 1990, Pollard began working as a researcher in documentary films before moving into writing and producing. Pollard has worked as a historical consultant for several feature films including director Shekar Kaptur's "Elizabeth" and Joe Wright's "Atonement". Pollard has also written several nonfiction history and archeology books.
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