THR: RTL, Beta to Re-Boot Royal Classic 'Sisi' (Exclusive)
Swiss-German actress Dominique Devenport will play the teenage Empresses Elizabeth of Austria, in a role made famous by Romy Schneider in a series of films from the 1950s.
Before Bridgerton, before The Crown, there was Sisi.
The real-life, 19th-century royal romance between Elizabeth "Sisi" of Bavaria and her husband, Austrian-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph, was turned into a series of iconic films in the 1950s, starring legendary Austrian actress Romy Schneider as Sisi.
Now, leading German commercial broadcaster RTL Group and Beta Film, a producer on Babylon Berlin, are rebooting the Sisi story for a new generation.
Swiss-American actress Dominique Devenport (Night Train to Lisbon) will star as Sisi, a tomboy princess who falls head over heels for Franz Joseph but finds the Hapsburg court in Vienna to be a backstabbing viper pit. German actor Jannik Schümann (Charité) plays Emperor Franz.
"When I think of Sisi, the first thing that comes to my mind is a statue enthroned above everybody and wreathed in myths," said Devenport in a statement. "I am very thankful that I am the new Sisi and able to show what kind of person she was: a young lady with big dreams, strong emotions, and ready to fight for her vision."
The event series will center on the relationship between the royal couple as Sisi, known at the time as the most beautiful woman in Europe, fights for her ideals against a strict and cruel court regime that seeks to hide her husband's sensitive and emotional nature behind a façade of a brutal, ruthless ruler.
"Sisi is a timeless story, a young liberal woman fighting for independence in a rather hostile environment," said Beta Film's managing director Moritz von Kruedener. "It seems that history repeats itself. Today she might be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey."
Berlin-based Story House Pictures, producer of the historic drama series Dignity about the Germanic-Chilean Colonia Dignidad cult, will produce the six-hour Sisi series for Beta and RTL with Andreas Gutzeit of Story House as head writer and showrunner. Gutzeit will produce together with Jens Freels in a co-production with Heinrich Ambrosch and Bettina Kuhn of Satel Film. Sven Bohse (Dark Woods) is directing. RTL's Hauke Bartel serves as executive producer on the series together with Markus Böhlke and Sylke Poensgen.
Sisi will begin production later this year for a planned holiday bow in Germany on RTL's subscription streaming service TVNow. Beta is handling world sales and will introduce the project to buyers at the virtual MIPTV television market next month.