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January 15, 2014

Paul Haggis Developing ‘Lords of Opium’ TV Drama for Canada’s Bell Media


Etan Vlessing / The Hollywood Reporter

The Canadian broadcaster is also hot-housing one hours from “Stargate SG-1’s” Robert C. Cooper, “Miss Congeniality’s” Katie Ford and “Brothers & Sisters'” Stephen Tolkin.

TORONTO – Crash director Paul Haggis is developing Lords of Opium, a historical drama about China’s late 19th century opium trade, for Canadian broadcaster Bell Media.

The project from Darius Films, which Haggis will executive produce, is one of 29 dramas in development at the top-rated Canadian broadcaster.

The slate includes Private Practice producer/writer Steve Blackman developing Mighty Quinns, about a family of con artists turned crime solvers, from Lark Productions, and Flashpoint creators Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern at work on Salamander, a detective drama based on a Belgian series.

Flashpoint producers Anne Marie La Traverse and Bill Mustos each have separate untitled projects parked with Bell Media.

Flashpoint ran for five seasons on CBS and ION in the U.S. market, a successful run that sparked the current trend of Canadian dramas landing on U.S. network schedules as cheap acquisitions, especially for summer schedules.

The show’s writer, Aubrey Nealon, is also working with ICF Films to develop Unravel, a police drama, while another Flashpoint writer, Adam Barken, and Lost Girl’s Emily Andras are attached to Smoke & Mirrors, about an illusionist in Niagara Falls who also works as a private detective.

Bell Media, which runs the CTV network and a string of specialty channels, has also tapped Miss Congeniality’s Katie Ford to develop Ice, a drama about a suburban woman who turns to diamond thefts after a bitter divorce, with Incendo as the producer.

The Canadian broadcaster in recent years has developed a host of homegrown dramas like NBC’s Saving Hope, BBC America’s Orphan Black and ABC’s Motive, series that were sold internationally after being developed in-house.

That track record has allowed original series from Bell Media to be routinely pitched and acquired in the U.S. and by broadcasters worldwide.

The current drama pipeline includes Orphan Black’s Chris Roberts at work on the police drama Apex, and Brothers & Sisters’ Stephen Tolkin developing Uncommon Youth, a four-parter set in Italy and the U.S. based on the kidnapping of J. Paul Getty III, the grandson of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty.

Lost Girl’s Jeremy Boxen and Entertainment One have also parked Modified, a drama about a detective and a beleaguered partner, with Bell Media.

Other police dramas being hot-housed by there include Sonar Entertainment teaming up with Double Nickel Entertainment and Mark Verheiden (Battlestar Galactica) on Tranquility, a sci-fi series about a troubled ex-cop with a new gig on a moon colony.

“We’re proud to be in a position to work with some of the best and most seasoned creative talent in the business, respected not only in Canada, but all over the world,” Corrie Coe, senior vp of independent production at Bell Media, said in a statement.

Also in development are two Thunderbird Films dramas from Stargate SG-1 creative: Robert C. Cooper is behind Soul Hunter, a supernatural drama, and AKA, a serialized drama about a woman with a perfect life and a dark secret from Paul Mullie and Joseph Mallozzi.

Elsewhere, Revenge writer Salvatore Stabile is developing Criminal Justice Society, a drama about a brilliant criminology professor who works with her students to solve deadly crimes, with Sienna Films.

Bell Media has in all 71 series in development, including comedies.