Michael Mann is set to direct multiple episodes of Hue 1968, an upcoming adaptation of Black Hawk Down author Mark Bowden’s bestseller of the same name. The book, released in June, has been widely hailed as ambitious, masterful, and compelling, offering a comprehensive account of Hanoi’s 1968 Tet Offensive, in which North Vietnamese and Viet Cong orchestrated a massive surprise attack that became a turning point for American involvement in the Vietnam War.
Mann’s involvement signals a marked return to television, adding him to the burgeoning list of Hollywood filmmakers and actors shifting over to the small screen. Mann got his start as a writer-producer on shows like Starsky and Hutch and Miami Vice in the ’70s and ’80s, but save for a turn on short-lived HBO drama Luck in 2011, has largely kept his focus on feature efforts since the early 2000s.
As reported by Deadline, Mann will executive-produce Hue 1968 alongside Michael De Luca (The Social Network, Captain Phillips). He plans to direct several installments of the show — including the premiere — which is expected to span somewhere between eight and 10 episodes in total. It seems to be on the fast track to screen, with filming slated to begin in Asia by the end of the year.
According to Deadline, the Hue 1968 retelling will “humanize the conflict by telling the story through the eyes of different characters on both sides over a 26-day period” and “make understandable why bloody events unfolded the way they did and made clear that Vietnam was an unwinnable war for the U.S.” The outlet also notes a lengthy list of characters, including:
“A seemingly innocent schoolgirl on a bike, whose heart had hardened her into a revolutionary after her sister was executed, leading her to help smuggle weapons; a former NFL tackle who became a U.S. Marine colonel and tactician; a Buddhist poet turned Vietcong commissar; an American civilian meeting his Vietnamese fiancée’s family; a math teacher from Hanoi in the North Vietnamese Army; a Marine captain radio operator from Pennsylvania, who immersed himself in local culture and language and then found himself unable to convince his supervisors that Hue had been over-run by conventional infantry; President Lyndon Johnson in his pajamas in the White House with Gen. Westmoreland, a sleepover guest who presented a rosy view of progress in Vietnam.”
Bowden’s work has already proved rich source material for narrative reimaginings, most notably with 2001’s Ridley Scott-directed Black Hawk Down, and it will be interesting to see how that translates to a more long-form format. In recent years, miniseries have helped to redefine television storytelling – and as home to successful anthology series like American Horror Story, American Crime Story, and Feud, FX has been at the frontier, making it an apt home for a project like Hue 1968. Given the acclaim surrounding Bowden’s novel, the series already has a lot of promise. Here’s to hoping it can keep that momentum intact.
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