Ridley Scott and Tom Hardy to executive produce period drama Taboo from Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight, financed by the BBC and Sonar Entertainment.

The BBC has commissioned a major new period drama starring Tom Hardy, who will also executive produce the series with acclaimed director Ridley Scott.

The 8 x 60-minute drama, titled Taboo, will be produced by Scott Free London and Hardy Son & Baker for BBC1 and Sonar Entertainment, which is distributing the series outside the UK.

Set in 1813, the story follows James Keziah Delaney (Hardy), a rogue adventurer who returns from Africa with 14 ill-gotten diamonds to seek vengeance after the death of his father.

Refusing to sell the family business to the East India Company, he sets out to build his own trade and shipping empire and finds himself playing a dangerous game with two warring nations, Britain and America.

The shoot is scheduled to take place in the UK from January 2015.

Taboo was created by Steven Knight, the writer behind BBC2 gangster drama Peaky Blinders that Hardy is due to join in the second series. The two also worked together on Locke, a feature film written and directed by Knight during which Hardy is the only actor seen on screen.

Packed with darkness

Hardy, the star of films including The Dark Knight Rises, Inception and Warrior, said: “We’re creating a flagship British drama for this generation.

The actor also described the new series as “a hybrid of orthodox and unconventional storytelling, packed with darkness and spirited characters”.

“I think Steve Knight and Ridley Scott are the perfect partners and the BBC the perfect home for this hugely exciting and compelling project,” he added.

Iconic character

Scott, best known for his work directing features such as Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator, said of Taboo: “This is a period in British history where the rising power of the Empire seeped into every dark corner.

“Tom and Steven have created a fantastic world in which Tom’s character James will become iconic.”

Knight described the lead character as “a deeply flawed and deeply troubled human being”.  

“His greatest struggle will be against the East India Company which, throughout the 19th century, was the equivalent of the CIA, the NSA and the biggest, baddest multi-national corporation on earth, all rolled into one self-righteous, religiously motivated monolith,” he added.

Ambitious undertaking

Ben Stephenson, controller of BBC Drama Commissioning said: “Following on from Steven Knight and Tom Hardy’s collaboration in series two of Peaky Blinders, I am thrilled that they are reunited alongside Ridley Scott to produce an ambitious drama series for BBC1.

“This is a major and ambitious undertaking for the BBC, reinforcing our commitment to be the best home for creative talent.”

The BBC recently halved the programme budget of youth station BBC3 and will redirect £30m ($50m) of that into BBC1 drama.

Ridley Scott’s Scott Free London is producing the series with Tom Hardy’s Hardy Son & Baker for BBC One and Sonar Entertainment. 

Executive producers are Ridley Scott, Liza Marshall and Kate Crowe for Scott Free, Tom Hardy and Dean Baker for Hardy Baker, and Steven Knight. 

The series is based on an original story by Hardy and Chips Hardy, his father who is also serving as consulting producer.

After a series of high-profile supporting roles, Hardy has a string of leading parts lined up including Elton John in biopic Rocketman; the eponymous Mad Max in the upcoming reboot; and major roles in James Gandolfini’s final film, The Drop, and bestseller adaptation Child 44, produced by Ridley Scott.

He is represented by Jack Whigham and Mick Sullivan at CAA and Lindy King at United Agents.