Filmmaker Michael Mann is looking to return to the small screen in a big way. While Mann got his start as a writer/producer on shows like Starsky and Hutch and Miami Vice, his directorial efforts on TV have been limited to a single episode each of 1977’s Police Woman and 1987’s Crime Story, and then the pilot for HBO’s short-lived drama series Luck in 2011. Now, however, the Heat and Collateral director is aiming to enter the popular fray of “limited series” efforts on TV with a Vietnam War-centric effort for FX.
Per Deadline, Mann and Michael De Luca (The Social Network) are poised to executive produce a limited series adaptation of the Mark Bowden bestseller Hue 1968, which is a comprehensive account of the siege in the Vietnam War that became a turning point for American involvement. Mann will direct multiple installments of the series, including the first episode, and the whole thing is set to span somewhere between eight and 10 episodes in total. This thing is moving fast, as the hope is to start filming in Asia by the end of the year.
Bowden is also the author behind the source material for Black Hawk Down so he has a reputation for compelling historical books, but Hue 1968 is an ambitious one as it chronicles the titular centerpiece of Hanoi’s 1968 Tet Offensive, in which North Vietnamese and Viet Cong orchestrated a massive surprise attack that hoped to win the entire war with one fell swoop. The limited series will tell this story from multiple viewpoints, described by Deadline thusly:
The intertwined characters include 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. The limited series will follow Bowden’s narrative structure to make understandable why bloody events unfolded the way they did and made clear that Vietnam was an unwinnable war for the U.S.
This certainly sounds like character-rich material for Mann, and I’m excited to see what he does with longform storytelling. Shows like The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and True Detective have redefined the “miniseries” format as a cinematic, close-ended exercise that allows a filmmaker (or filmmakers) to tell a single story across multiple hours with a beginning, middle, and end. FX deserves credit for kicking this whole thing off with the wildly successful anthology American Horror Story, so it makes sense that they’d want to diversify their limited series offerings with Hue 1968. And if I’m being honest, as much as I loved American Crime Story it’s nice to see a greenlight going to a limited FX series from someone other than Ryan Murphy.
Mann is mulling a number of feature projects at the moment, including his long-developing Ferrari biopic that most recently attached Hugh Jackman and Noomi Rapace to star. But with Hue 1968 aiming to start filming later this year, it sounds like that one’s still a ways off, and this limited series may very well be his next project.