By DENISE MARTIN
FX has acquired two-hour movie "Smallpox" from U.K. production shingle Wall to Wall Prods. ("Colonial House") to spin off into a series of original event movies.
Shot documentary-style, project centers on an imagined terrorist attack on the U.S. via an outbreak of smallpox. Story is set a few years in the future in the affected cities of New York and London and told from multiple perspectives - FBI and Interpol agents linking the outbreak to terrorists, health officials, loved ones of the first victims.
Telepic also includes footage of the real-life havoc smallpox has wrought.
For its FX premiere, cabler will recast and reshoot the storyline of a British family affected by the epidemic as an American family whose patriarch is based in London. Casting will begin later in the summer, for an airing as early as the fourth quarter.
Alex Graham and Jonathan Hewes' Wall to Wall produced a similar Brit telepic, "The Day Britain Stopped," about a fictitious urban apocalypse that began with a 24-hour national rail strike and ended with two planes colliding in midair over London. Both "Smallpox" and "Day" bowed to record ratings in their U.K. debuts.
"When I originally pitched 'Smallpox' to the BBC, I said that everything in this film is true, it just hasn't happened yet," Graham said. "It's like a fake piece of history."
FX entertainment president John Landgraf said, if successful, the format would be turned into a movie wheel of "War of the Worlds"-inspired telepics, which could begin airing next year.
"Everything is based on credible, absolutely could-happen situations," Landgraf said. "What you'll see is an incredibly real docudrama - talking heads addressing the camera as they recount the trail of the epidemic, plenty of human drama. It's a really fascinating premise that results in a pretty gripping two hours."
In keeping with FX's mandate for contemporary projects grounded in reality, future pics will entertain only real-life possibilities - no alien attacks.
"They'll be very chilling and real explorations of 'what if?' scenarios," Landgraf said. "The first one is brilliantly researched and quite scary."
Project came through the network's alternative and longform units headed by VPs Eric Schrier and Gerard Bocaccio.
Wall to Wall is in production on the reality show "Things I Hate About You" for Bravo (Daily Variety, Nov. 13). Skein is based on the U.K. format that lets couples work out their marital woes guerrilla-style.
Date in print: Mon., Jun. 21, 2004, Los Angeles