Sharon Stone to film in Belfast: Hollywood star lined up for role in Ulster-made show
Hollywood actress Sharon Stone - best known for her sizzling role in Basic Instinct - is in the frame for a new multi-million pound television series to be shot in Northern Ireland, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Catherine Zeta Jones - who starred in Chicago, The Mask of Zorro and the Darling Buds of May - is also being considered for the role of a feisty and scheming queen, Grouch Macbeth, modelled on Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth.
A pilot script for the drama series has been written by the Rathcoole-born playwright Gary Mitchell, best known for his hard-hitting political plays.
Andrew Reid, head of production at Northern Ireland Screen, said: "Gary's Grouch Macbeth script is in the early stages of development and, while filming is a long way off, it is very encouraging that an established producer like Jon Cody has come on board the project."
It's another major boost for the fast-growing film and television industry which is proving to be an economic success story for Northern Ireland.
Figures for the overall value of the sector are not published by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, but figures from the Assembly reveal that the first four series of Game of Thrones, shot in Titanic Quarter and at locations across the province, brought a direct economic benefit of £82m.
This includes wages for cast and crew, hotels, services and tourism, and has created the equivalent of more than 900 full-time and 5,700 part-time jobs.
Big Hollywood productions like Game of Thrones, Dracula Untold and City of Ember have put the province on the map.
Brad Pitt's production company is currently shooting a movie here. The Lost City of Z stars heart-throb actors Robert Pattinson and Charlie Hunnam.
And leading British drama series like The Fall and Line of Duty, featuring well-known actors including Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan, Gina McKee and Adrian Dunbar, have established major production bases here.
Last week, The Belfast Telegraph revealed that a new BBC Saturday night game show, Don't Touch This, presented by Zoe Ball, has just completed filming in Titanic Quarter. It's expected that further series will be shot in Belfast.
The Los Angeles company behind the multi-million pound Grouch MacBeth series, TV4 Entertainment, is working with NI Screen to develop the project. Its founder and chief executive, Irish-American Jon Cody, told the Belfast Telegraph: "Grouch Macbeth is an epic drama series, in the mould of Game of Thrones. It's a Shakespearean 'mash-up', with the central character, Grouch Macbeth, interacting with other Shakespearean characters."
Mr Cody said Gary Mitchell's pilot script has just been sent to Sharon Stone, who has first refusal on the lead role.
"It's obviously fantastic to have an actor like Sharon Stone considering this.
"Talent is key and Catherine Zeta Jones is another option.
"For a major drama series of very high quality, the type of production that you would see on HBO or BBC, production costs are massive, it runs into tens and hundreds of millions of dollars.
"From what I've seen of the script, it's going to be a large-scale epic production."
Mr Cody, a former senior executive with Fox, revealed that his fast-growing company, based in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, is also considering opening a base in Northern Ireland.
He said: "Why would we not want to be here? I'm very impressed with the way the film and television industry is developing here and I'm interested in being part of the sector's growth, the way in which it's helping to drive the economy here."
Andrew Reid at NI Screen said: "We are delighted to hear that TV4 Entertainment is considering Belfast as a base for its European office.
"This further cements Northern Ireland's reputation as a world-class location for film and television production."