ITV has commissioned the epic and compelling story of Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of one of Ancient Egypt’s forgotten pharaohs, the boy-king Tutankhamun.
The four-part event mini series written by leading screenwriter Guy Burt (Jekyll and Hyde, The Bletchley Circle, The Borgias) will focus on the legendary personal story of Carter, a solitary man on the edge of society who became an iconic figure and an unlikely hero.
Set against the great sweep of ochre sands, looming cliffs and baking heat of Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, the story unfolds from 1905 when Carter, an eminent British archaeologist who we meet in his early 20’s, is fervently leading an expedition. Amidst the chaos scattered across the Valley floor, Carter’s grim determination to find lost antiquities is only too apparent. He has an easy manner with the Egyptian men who work alongside him, but when tempers fray Carter is hotheaded and puts the dig and his career in jeopardy.
With his license to dig revoked by Cairo’s Antiquities Service, Carter spends years ostracised, dishevelled and living rough and resorting to selling previously discovered archaeological relics to buy food.
A chance meeting with British aristocrat, the very dashing, suave and eccentric Lord Carnarvon, brings a change of fortunes as the enthusiastic amateur needs an experienced archaeologist to help him with a series of random excavations. Carter and Carnarvon begin the most unlikely friendship, in spite of their differences of background and character. Privileged and fast living, Carnarvon keeps faith with Carter and continues to back him when no one else will. After years of searching for the tomb, Carter and Carnarvon successfully discover the last resting place of the boy-king in 1921 against all odds and at great personal expense.
The drama will be executive produced by ITV Studios Creative Director of Drama Francis Hopkinson (Home Fires, Jekyll & Hyde, Lucan, Wallander) and Catherine Oldfield (Home Fires, Collision, Foyle’s War). Simon Lewis (The C Word, The Paradise, The Body Farm) will produce with Peter Webber (Girl with a Pearl Earring, Hannibal Rising, The Stretford Wives) directing the series. Filming will take place in South Africa during the winter of 2015 and early part of 2016.
“Howard Carter’s discovery of the lost tomb of Tutankhamun is legendary,” said Francis. “His all-consuming, obsessive search for the tomb pushed his friendship with Lord Carnarvon to the brink, whilst the adventurous and extrovert aristocrat poured his inheritance into the excavation.”
Catherine added: “This is a fascinating and compelling story with real historical significance. It’s based on true events and reveals how Carter desperately tries to persuade his patron (Carnarvon) to continue to bankroll the excavation. Ultimately it’s the story of what happens when you stake everything on one last roll of the dice.”
ITV Director of Drama Steve November and Controller of Drama Victoria Fea have commissioned the series.
“Tutankhamun is a story of epic proportions,” said Steve. “Against the backdrop of World War One, conflict, murder, corruption, romance and the unlikeliest of friendships, Tutankhamun sees Howard Carter’s determination pay off in spectacular style when he discovers one of the greatest archaeological treasures of the modern world,” added Steve.
Details of casting will be available in the coming months.