Moscow author Buddy Levy has travelled the world to find the truth behind legends like David Crockett and King Montezuma.Fans of his books often think they’d make great movies or series, and over the years Hollywood has shown some interest. Now one project appears to be taking off. Levy’s 2007 book tracing the fall of the Aztec empire, “Conquistador: Hernan Cortes, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs,” has been optioned to become a limited series by Overbrook Entertainment.
“Caleeb Pinkett of Overbrook called me about a year ago,” Levy said in a phone interview this week. “He’d just read the book and he was fired up. … We had a great discussion about the book and what it would look like, potentially, as a television project. I was really struck by his enthusiasm and the depth of his understanding of history,” Levy said.
Pinkett is the president of Overbrook, a production company owned by his brother-in-law, actor and producer Will Smith.
Simultaneously, Levy was contacted by Don Handfield, who co-produced “The Founder,” starring Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc. Handfield is also co-creator and producer of the History Channel drama series “Knightfall.”
The three met last November and are now working together to make the book into a series. The first step will be to sell the idea to a major distributor like Netflix, Amazon or a similar company, said Levy, who retained creative control in the project and is writing speculative scripts to show to interested parties.
“When I wrote it, I kind of conceived it cinematically. There’s always the dream of how this thing would look on screen,” he said. “To do it right, this is such a magnificent story, down to the wardrobe of the Aztecs and conquistadors.”
Another important step is to recruit major talent to play the central characters, Cortez and Montezuma.
“There’s also a great role for a woman,” Levy said.
This is Malinche, a Mayan slave in her teens given to Cortez in a trade. She spoke several languages and became his interpreter.
Levy said there has been a lot of interest in the book over the years, but he believes the time is ripe for this epic tale to come to screens. The surge in streaming services has increased demand for engaging content. The success of streaming TV has also changed the way major actors feel about starring on television. There’s no longer a stigma against it, he said.
Levy teaches English at Washington State University. He’s finishing a new book, “Labyrinth of Ice: The Triumphant and Tragic Greely Polar Expedition,” about a disastrous 1881 American trek to the North Pole to set up the most northern international polar weather station. The story has scientific implications that carry into the present day.
Hollywood has shown interest in other books he’s written, Levy said. Among them is “River of Darkness: Francisco Orellana’s Legendary Voyage of Death and Discovery Down the Amazon.”
He also thinks his biography “American Legend: The Real-Life Adventures of David Crockett” would be an update on the 1955 Walt Disney film starring Fess Parker.
“Another go-round of that would be much truer to the real life story of the man,” said Levy, who was featured this spring in two episodes of the History channel show “The Men Who Built America: Frontiersmen” that told Crockett’s story.