British 1960s espionage television series The Champions is on course for a big screen outing, starring Ben Stiller and Cate Blanchett.
Ben Stiller will also direct the upcoming film adaptation based on the action adventure series that made its debut on television in both the UK and US back in 1968, and while it ran for just 30 episodes, the show prompted a comic strip adaptation, featuring in City Magazines Joe 90: Top Secret comic from the first issue until its merger with TV21, running for 34 issues. (They also had a story in the Joe 90 Top Secret Annual 1969).
In the series, produced by ITC Entertainment, secret agents Craig Stirling (played by Stuart Damon), a pilot, Sharron Macready (Alexandra Bastedo, who later set up an animal sanctuary and became an environmental campaigner), a recently widowed scientist and doctor, and Richard Barrett (William Gaunt), a code breaker, work for a United Nations law enforcement organization called ‘Nemesis’, based in Geneva.
After their plane crashes in the Himalayas during a mission in China, they are rescued by a secret, advanced civilisation living in the mountains of Tibet, who save their lives. They’re also given enhanced abilities, including extrasensory powers, to, which they use, secretly, in subsequent missions, as champions of law, order and justice.
Anthony Nicholls played their Nemesis “handler”, Tremayne, seemingly unaware of their powers, despite running a secret agent organisation.
Variety reports Cate Blanchett is producing through Dirty Films, the company she created with spouse Andrew Upton, and Stiller is producing through his label Red Hour Productions. Additional producers include ITV Studios America and New Republic Pictures, the latter also working on an adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel, Vulcan’s Hammer, and a feature adaptation of the Robert Kirkman comic, Oblivion Song.
“’Champions’ is a long-forgotten gem that will excite a new generation in the same strange and magnificent way that the original series spoke to us,” says Blanchett.
“I’ve long wanted to work with Ben – the director and the actor. He is one of the most engaged and versatile directors working today. Anyone who can make both Zoolander and Escape at Dannemora is a creative force to be reckoned with.”
“I’m a huge fan of Cate’s for a very long time,” Stiller added. I’m hoping this project will help people to finally take her seriously as an actress.”
“There’s no doubt that we have a superhuman team on board to bring this riveting series to life for a new audience,” said Philippe Maigret, President of ITV Studios America.
“New Republic Pictures is thrilled to be teaming up with Ben Stiller and Cate Blanchett – an irresistible cinematic spy duo if ever there were one – along with our friends at ITV and Dirty Films, as we reimagine ITV’s fun and iconic 1960’s espionage franchise. Literally can’t wait,” said New Republic president Bradley Fischer, who is serving as a producer with Brian Oliver. Andrew Upton and Coco Francini of Dirty Films will also produce.
Cate Blanchett is currently in production on Todd Field’s drama Tar and recently wrapped filming on Eli Roth’s video game adaptation Borderlands, which will probably be released sometime next year.
Look out for her also, in Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming thriller, Nightmare Alley, from Searchlight Pictures, due for release in January, and Adam McKay’s environmental satire Don’t Look Up at Netflix.
Ben Stiller is working on the Apple Plus workplace thriller Severance, a drama series he’s directing and co-starring with Adam Scott and Patricia Arquette.
This isn’t the first time The Champions has been mooted for the big screen. In 2007, Guillermo del Toro expressed a desire to adapt the cult TV series, but his plans it fell victim to the director’s ever-packed schedule.
• The Champions: The Complete Series is available from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link) and on Prime Video