The mutilated body of a leading politician is found in the middle of the Channel Tunnel, throwing a mismatched British and French detective together.
The Bridge, the moody Nordic series which became a cult BBC hit last year, is to be remade as The Tunnel, with Anglo-French tensions at the heart of the drama.
The latest subtitled Scandinavian import to follow the success of The Killing and Borgen, The Bridge, a collaboration between Swedish and Danish broadcasters, attracted a weekly audience of one million viewers on BBC4.
The Bridge followed the uneasy relationship between Swedish homicide detecitve Saga Noren , blunt to the point of rudeness with an obsessive personality and Martin Rohde, her laid-back Danish compatriot, who are forced to work together when a body is found on the bridge which links their two nations.
The series proved so popular that it has now become an international format with countries, seeking to adapt it to reflect occasionally irritable relationships with their closest neighbours.
Sky Atlantic HD will collaborate with French broadcaster CANAL + and Kudos TV, British creators of Life On Mars, for an Anglo-French remake which will be shown in both countries this Autumn.
The Bridge has become The Tunnel, with the story beginning when the body of a prominent French politician is found in an area marking the border between Britain and France.
Stephen Dillane, star of Game Of Thrones, plays the British detective, Karl Roebuck, sent to investigate. Clémence Poésy (Birdsong) is his French counterpart, Elise Wassermann, with the action set against the backdrop of a Europe in crisis.
Once again, the duo are contrasting personalities, whose approach to the job reflects aspects of their national character.
Keeley Hawes and Joseph Mawle also appear in the series, which will be bilingual, with subtitles for viewers whose French (or English across the Channel) is not up to speed.
Manda Levin, series producer at Kudos, said: “The ancient and tumultuous history between Britain and France was one of the reasons for reinventing The Bridge with the two countries.
“There is a lot of fun to be had exploring the cultural differences between Britain and France through the characters but it won’t be done in a clichéd or obvious way. It’s about the burgeoning relationship between two very different people.”
Ms Levin added: “The series is also about Britain in Europe. What does a British identity mean in this multi-cultural, globally mixed-up world?”
The series will be shot in Calais, Folkestone, Shepway and Dover. The producers are currently negotiating permission from Eurotunnel to shoot key scenes in the Tunnel.
An Anglo-French writing team will be led by Ben Richards (Spooks), with a French director taking control of the opening episode. There will be roughly equal number of French and British actors but no national quotas. “It’s great because we get to cast lots of terrific French actors,” said Ms Levin.
The producers also hope to emulate the chic interiors which have become a feature of the Nordic dramas embraced by British viewers.
Ms Levin said: “Harbour towns like Folkestone have their own dirty beauty which will be one element of the visual look. But Karl’s wife is an interior designer so we’ve given him a funky apartment too.”
International adaptations of The Bridge will continue with a US version called The Border involving American and Mexican detectives.
The Tunnel’s producers believe Britain’s military support for French-led efforts to expel Islamic extremists from Mali adds an element of prescience to their story of Anglo-French co-operation.
Although the BBC acquired The Bridge, which will return for a second series, Ms Levin said Kudos had chosen to partner with Sky Atlantic for the remake as it was the “channel with the ambition to make a bold, bilingual drama.”
BSkyB has committed to investing £600 million a year in British programmes across its channels. Dominic Cooper will take the lead role in another Sky Atlantic series, Fleming, based on the life of the James Bond creator, Ian Fleming.