James Gandolfini Developing Antarctic Drama BIG DEAD PLACE at HBO

     September 1, 2011


HBO is understandably determined to keep The Sopranos star James Gandolfini in the family.  Gandolfini returned earlier this year as one of the stars in the telepic Cinema Verite, and is at the center of two more projects in development at HBO: Taxi 0-22 and Eating with the EnemyTHR adds one more to the list in Big Dead Place.  Peter Gould (Breaking Bad) will adapt the pilot script from the memoir by Nicholas Johnson—Johnson went to the scientific research center hoping to find “adventure, beauty, penguins and lofty-minded scientists; instead, he found boredom, alcohol and bureaucracy.”

Gandolfini will produce, and may choose to star as the fictional Johnson.  Nancy Sanders (Huff), Mark Armstrong (Hellraiser), Jimmy Miller (Bad Teacher), and actor Brian Swibel will also produce.  Read the book synopsis after the jump.


When Johnson went to work for the U.S. Antarctic Program (devoted to scientific research and education in support of the national interest in the Antarctic), he figured he’d find adventure, beauty, penguins and lofty-minded scientists. Instead, he found boredom, alcohol and bureaucracy. As a dishwasher and garbage man at McMurdo Station, Johnson quickly shed his illusions about Antarctica. Since he and his co-workers seldom ventured beyond the station’s grim, functional buildings, they spent most of their time finding ways to entertain themselves, drinking beer, bowling and making home movies. The dormlike atmosphere, complete with sexual hijinks and obscene costume parties, sometimes made life there feel like “a cheap knock-off of some original meaty experience.” What dangers there were existed mostly in the psychological realm; most people who were there through the winter developed the “Antarctica stare,” an unnerving tendency to forget what they were saying mid-sentence and gaze dumbly at the station walls. And if the cold and isolation didn’t drive one crazy, the petty hatreds and mindless red tape might. [Amazon]

The setting is definitely unique, which I love.  Apart from that one House episode, I don’t recall a series that ventured so far south, much less for every episode.  I’d have to read the book to see if there’s enough to propel a series, but at the very least, Big Dead Place sounds like it could be a great character piece, especially if Gandolfini stars.