‘Metropolis’ TV Series Not Going Forward Amid Writers Strike & Mounting Pre-Production Costs

EXCLUSIVE: Sam Esmail’s years-in-the making adaptation of Fritz Lang’s classic 1927 sci-fi film Metropolis has become one of the highest-profile casualties of the growing uncertainty in Hollywood driven by labor unrest against the background of economic headwinds.

The big-budget UCP series for Apple TV+, which had been prepping in Australia, has permanently shut down. The crew was just notified that the ambitious project will not move forward with production, which had been targeting a summer start.

UCP confirmed to Deadline that Metropolis has been scrapped. “Push costs and uncertainty related to the ongoing strike led to this difficult decision,” a rep for the studio said.

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Metropolis had been in limbo for the past seven weeks. Since production drafts of the scripts for the large-scope, special effects-heavy series had not been finished before the May 2 start of the writers strike, that delayed setting budgets and other key elements of pre-production.

The series was partially cast, with Briana Middleton set as the lead and Lindy Booth tapped for a major role.  

Because of the timing, UCP was faced with rising costs related to pushing the start of production, building and holding expansive stages, labor an VFX work — while not knowing when filming could begin due to the writers strike (and the prospect of a potential SAG-AFTRA strike). After evaluating the money spent so far and the risk of going forward, UCP opted to not proceed with the series and notified their partners at Apple TV+.

The filming was to take place in the state of Victoria where it was projected to create nearly 4,000 jobs, making use of one of the world’s largest ‘virtual production’ infrastructures, according to the April 2022 announcement.

Australia’s VicScreen attracted the series to the state through its Victorian Screen Incentive grant. This was expected to be the first of several NBCU projects in the region representing an injection of A$416M ($310M) into the local economy.

Metropolis had been a passion project for Mr. Robot creator Esmail. He was writer, director and executive producer on the eight-episode series which he had been working on for more than seven years. The much-anticipated project landed at Apple TV+ with a series order last year. Esmail executive produced via his deal with UCP, a division of Universal Studio Group, and Chad Hamilton, via Anonymous Content.

Directed by Lang and written by Thea Von Harbou based on the latter’s 1925 novel, the original film was set in a futuristic urban dystopia and follows the attempts of Freder, the wealthy son of the city master, and Maria, a saintly figure to the workers, to overcome the vast gulf separating the classes in their city and bring the workers together with Joh Fredersen, the city master.

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