There are many great things about Peak TV, and one of the most exciting trends right now is the arrival of some of the best foreign filmmakers in the world to the small screen. Award-winning directors from Mexico, Denmark, Italy, Australia and Greece call networks like HBO, AMC, FX and Netflix their home and are inspiring other great international voices to come join them.
This year alone has already seen great work from Italian Oscar winner Paolo Sorrentino (“The Young Pope”) and Quebecois darling Jean-Marc Vallée (“Big Little Lies”), while previous television seasons have brought the likes of Jane Campion and Guillermo del Toro.
Click through for our list of 11 major foreign filmmakers who are making a mark on American television with already-aired series or projects currently in development.
One of the breakout new series of 2017, “The Young Pope” saw Italian Oscar winner Paolo Sorrentino (“The Great Beauty”) bring his ambitious vision to the small screen for the very first time here in the states. The series was a co-production between Sky Atlantic, HBO and Canal+, following the trials and tribulations of the first American Pope, played by Jude Law in some of the best work of his career. The series was HBO’s first hit of the 2017 season, earning an A review from IndieWire critic Ben Travers. Sorrentino will continue the series in the recently announced “The New Pope,” though details and a release date are currently under wraps.
After dominating the international film scene with dramas like “Dogtooth,” “The Lobster” and this year’s Cannes favorite “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” Yorgos Lanthimos will be spending much of 2017 involved with two very high profile television series. He’s joining star and executive producer Kirsten Dunst for AMC's dark comedy series "On Becoming a God in Central Florida," which is being described as a “darkly comedic story about one woman's relentless pursuit of the American Dream in the early 1990s.” Lanthimos will direct the pilot for the series. He’ll then reunite with current muse Colin Farrell for an Amazon drama series about the Iran-Contra Affair. Farrell will star as former U.S. Marine Oliver North, and Lanthimos is expected to direct all episodes of the untitled series.
Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2011 for “In a Better World,” and she could conquer the Emmys in similar fashion in 2016. She became only the third woman in Emmys history to win Best Director for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special thanks to BBC and AMC’s spy drama “The Night Manager,” starring Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie. Bier directed all six episodes of the John le Carré adaptation, earning praise from IndieWire for “steering what could have been a plot-heavy story toward the heart.” Rumors persist that a second addition of the series could be in store, though nothing is confirmed yet. She’s also been confirmed to direct the pilot for an Amazon drama series set in Cuba.
Jean-Marc Vallée is one of the most successful Québécois filmmakers working today. After successfully conquering American independent cinema with Oscar winner “Dallas Buyers Club” and nominee “Wild,” Vallée followed Reese Witherspoon to television for this year’s breakout HBO limited series “Big Littles Lies.” His signature style — using quick montage editing to evoke the sensation of memory — and gift for getting the very best work out of his actors made the seven-episode drama the show people just couldn’t stop raving about. Expect Jean-Marc Vallée to be in the Emmys race this year, and he could even return if the speculation of another run of episodes turns out to be true.
Following the success of “Bright Star” in 2009 (the indie period romance earned $14.1 million worldwide opposite its $8.5 million budget), Jane Campion took a short break before re-directing her filmmaking vision to television with the universally acclaimed “Top of the Lake.” The detective drama was a co-production between BBC Two in the UK, BBC UKTV in New Zealand and the Sundance Channel in the United States, and it found Campion and co-director Garth Davis (who would go on to make the Oscar-nominated drama “Lion”) crafting a slow-burn mystery with stellar performances from Elisabeth Moss and Holly Hunter. The seven-episode series was so beloved that Campion returned for the sequel, “Top of the Lake: China Girl,” which world premiered at Cannes this year and was one of the highlights of the festival.
It was only a matter of time before Nicolas Winding Refn came to American television. The director became a favorite in the states after the success of “Drive,” but he’s yet to match that kind of success with follow-up projects “Only God Forgives” and “The Neon Demon.” He could find more luck thanks to Amazon, which gave a straight-to-series order for this 10-episode crime thriller. Miles Teller has landed the starring role of a grieving Los Angeles police officer who navigates the criminal underworld. Refn will directed, produce and co-write all episodes.
Norwegian film director Morten Tyldum was one of the breakout talents of the 2014-2015 awards season, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Director, one of eight nominations for “The Imitation Game.” He turned awards success into his first Hollywood blockbuster, but the Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt space romance “Passengers” fizzled at the box office last year. Television could be just what Tyldum needs to rebound, as he’ll be behind the camera for a couple of high profile new series. He’s directing the pilots for “Counterpart,” a Starz thriller series starring J.K. Simmons and Olivia Williams, and Amazon’s “Jack Ryan” reboot series, which will star John Krasinski as the popular CIA agent.
Guillermo del Toro has had his hand in American television since July 2014 when he co-created FX’s horror series “The Strain,” based off his vampire novel series of the same name. The show has never been a huge breakout for the network, but it’s been a constant performer in the summer and wraps up its run with its fourth season this July. The filmmaker also has his popular children’s series “Trollhunters,” which earned great reviews when it debuted on Netflix at the end of last year. The series may tone down del Toro’s trademark darkness, but it’s jam-packed with the kind of imagination that makes him one of cinema’s biggest dreamers.
For his big jump to American television, Oscar winner Danny Boyle is reuniting with “Slumdog Millionaire” writer Simon Beaufoy and producer Christian Colson. The trio are teaming up for “Trust,” an FX anthology series that will focus on the strange 1973 kidnapping of oil fortune heir John Paul Getty III. Harris Dickinson, the breakout star of Sundance winner “Beach Rats,” is taking on the lead role opposite Donald Sutherland as John Paul Getty, Hilary Swank as Gail Getty and Brendan Fraser as James Fletcher Chace. Production on the limited series begins in London and Rome this June for a January 2018 release, the network announced Friday.
How do you follow up back to back Oscar wins for Best Director? If you’re “Birdman” and “The Revenant” visionary Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, you start expanding into other artistic mediums. The director is currently being praised for his virtual reality installation “Carne y Arena,” and he’s been gearing up TV drama “The One Percent” ever since wrapping production on “The Revenant.” The 10-episode drama earned a straight-to-series order from Starz, but it was recently shelved because of scheduling conflicts with Iñárritu’s shooting style (he shoots in chronological order, which isn’t cheap to pull off).
The show centers around a family struggling to keep their farm from financial ruin, until a twist of fate changes their lives forever. Greg Kinnear and Hilary Swank are attached to star, while Emmanuel Lubezki will serve as cinematographer. Production studio MCR is currently shopping the project around to other distributors.
Baz Luhrmann makes movies that are razzle-dazzle extravaganzas, so it was pretty much guaranteed that his trip to the small screen was going to be pretty damn big. “The Get Down” brought Luhrmann’s one-of-a-kind vision to Netflix, and with it came reports that it was the streaming platforms highest budgeted original offering in history. The price tag was reported at a colossal $200 million, which brings each episode to around $16 million, but thats what you get when you bring Baz to television. The series, which earned favorable reviews, only ran for one season before being cancelled. That budget may have had something to do with it.