The BBC, The Open University and Science Channel co-produce new factual drama starring William Hurt

With an impressive cast, including award-winning actor William Hurt, it promises to be a powerful factual drama for BBC Two and part of our mission to make science programmes ever more surprising and ambitious."Kim Shillinglaw, Commissioning Editor, Science and Natural History
Date: 23.10.2012     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 18.09
Category: BBC Two; Factual
The BBC, The Open University and Science Channel are co-producing a new factual drama starring award-winning actor William Hurt (Altered States, Kiss Of The Spider Woman, Children Of A Lesser God, History Of Violence, Into The Wild, Too Big To Fail).

Hurt will play the brilliant US physicist Richard Feynman, who was instrumental in uncovering the truth behind the space shuttle Challenger disaster of 1986.

When Challenger exploded 73 seconds into its flight on the morning of 28 January 1986, it represented one of the most shocking events in the history of American spaceflight. A Presidential Commission was immediately convened to explore what had gone wrong, but with the vast complexity of the space shuttle and so many vested interests involved in the investigation, discovering the truth was an almost impossible challenge.

A truly independent member of the investigation was Richard Feynman. One of the most accomplished scientists of his generation, he worked on the Manhattan Project building the first atom bomb and won the Nobel Prize for his breakthroughs in quantum physics. Feynman deployed exceptional integrity, charm and relentless scientific logic to investigate the secrets of the shuttle disaster and in doing so, helped make the US space program safer.

Kim Shillinglaw, BBC Commissioning Editor, Science and Natural History, says: “This is the gripping story of a brilliant physicist’s battle for scientific truth in the dark corridors of big government. With an impressive cast, including award-winning actor William Hurt, it promises to be a powerful factual drama for BBC Two and part of our mission to make science programmes ever more surprising and ambitious.”

“The Challenger disaster represents an indelible moment in American history – anyone who is old enough to recall it remembers exactly where they were then this terrible tragedy occurred,” says Debbie Myers, General Manager and Executive Vice President of Science Channel.

“Science Channel is honoured to work with the incomparable William Hurt to tell the story of Richard Feynman, a true-life hero and one of most controversial scientific minds of our time.”

Other cast confirmed include Canadian actor Bruce Greenwood (Thirteen Days, Star Trek, Super 8, I, Robot) who plays fellow Commissioner US Air Force General Donald Kutyna in the second lead role.

He is joined by American actor Brian Dennehy (First Blood, The Belly Of An Architect, Bunker Hill, Twelfth Night) who is playing William Rogers, Chairman of the Presidential Commission and English actress Joanne Whalley (The Singing Detective, Edge Of Darkness, The Virgin Queen, The Borgias) who is playing Feynman’s wife Gweneth.

Also starring in the drama are English actors Kevin McNally (Pirates Of The Caribbean, Margaret, Wuthering Heights) who will play Larry Mulloy, head of the Solid Rocket Booster programme at NASA’s Marshall Space Centre and Henry Goodman (The Merchant Of Venice, The Damned United, Notting Hill) as Doctor Weiss. Eve Best (The King’s Speech, Nurse Jackie, The Shadow Line, Shackleton) is playing astronaut Sally Ride.

Filming begins in October 2012 and the programme is due to broadcast on BBC Two in 2013.

Notes to editors

1x90-minute drama

The Challenger is co-produced by BBC Scotland Science, The Open University and Science Channel. It was commissioned by Janice Hadlow, Controller of BBC Two, and Kim Shillinglaw, Commissioning Editor for Science and Natural History.

BBC Executive Producers: Mark Hedgecoe (Operation Iceberg and How To Grow A Planet, Rome: The Rise And Fall Of An Empire) and Cassian Harrison (Earthflight, First Light).

Science Channel Executive Producer: Rocky Collins (Through The Wormhole With Morgan Freeman and Dark Matters: Twisted But True).

Producer: Laurie Borg (Great Expectations, Made In Dagenham, Sense And Sensibility, Occupation).

Director: James Hawes (Enid, Suspicions Of Mister Whicher, Mad Dogs, Doctor Who, Fanny Hill).

Script by: Kate Gartside (Mistresses, Lark Rise To Candleford, Stopping Distance).

For Science Channel: Bernadette McDaid is Vice President of Production and Debbie Adler Myers is General Manager and Executive Vice President.

GH