The Illustrious Career HBO Impresario Anne Thomopoulos

Los Angeles, CA. Anne Thomopoulos is a prolific television and film producer. As Senior Vice President of HBO, she was instrumental in the development of Emmy and Golden Globe-winning series From the Earth to the Moon and Band of Brothers among others.

She is the daughter of Tony Thomopoulos, the former President of ABC Broadcast Group, and a graduate of Georgetown University.

THE ROAD TO HBO

Thomopoulos began her career at Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions, which produced 25 American primetime television series, mostly sitcoms. She then worked for Michael J. Fox’ Production company in charge of development. When the president of the company resigned, Thomopoulos offered to take over the position temporarily, keeping the same salary, with the understanding that if she was successful she would retain the position. She remained there until HBO knocked on her door. Thomopoulos was brought in to establish a dramatic series department and she created the popular and critically acclaimed series Oz.

With a budget rivaling that of the motion picture industry but without the content constraints of conventional broadcast television, HBO became the place filmmakers wanted to be.

MAXING MINIS

Then came another highly acclaimed production, the miniseries From the Earth to the Moon. “Tom Hanks pitched it to us right after Apollo 13 and we loved it, Thomopoulos told TNH. “It was a great story and we approached it like a feature film.”

The cost was $68 million and traced the history of the American space program from its inception to the Apollo 17 moon landing. It won an Emmy for Outstanding Miniseries and helped spur HBO into historical miniseries dominance.

The story about the making of Band of Brothers has an interesting twist. Thomopoulos had read an article in the Los Angeles Times about another book by the same author, the eminent historian Stephen Ambrose, titled Citizen Soldiers, and she was in the process of inquiring about film rights. Tom Hanks who was in the 1998 Academy Award winning film Saving Private Ryan had already secured the rights to Band of Brothers and the switch to another award-winning miniseries was made.

FRENCH CONNECTION

Thomopoulos’ dual citizenship, American and French, has opened up production opportunities for her in France. She produced the Renaissance period drama Borgia, about the famous family’s rise to power and domination of the Vatican political landscape. Borgia’s Executive Producer Tom Fontana is an old acquaintance of Thomopoulos, and he was Michael J. Fox’ agent. Thomopoulos said “Production is like a war. Relationships are very important and you want to work with someone you trust and respect. You want to collaborate with people that you know have the required skills and you want to get back into the foxhole.” The show was the highest rated original series for Canal+ in France and Italy. Versailles is a Franco-Canadian television series about the construction of the famed Versailles Palace during the reign of French ruler Louis XIV, and premiered in France and Canada last November. It is slated to premiere on American television this October. This series was also filmed in English, and French critics were reportedly furious about that. That the show now airs on BBC2 in England with great success illustrates that the switch to the English language despite some local criticism will continue “as more European production companies realize that their shows will have more international commercial value if filmed in English,” she says.

With a budget of 2.7 million euros per episode, the show doubles the average cost of an episode of Downton Abbey. According to Thomopoulos, the show “feels very truthful to the period without all of the details being 100% accurate.”

Thomopoulos was also the Executive Producer for The Collection, the story of two brothers who are intent on maintaining their Parisian fashion company in France after the end of the WWII. The fashion industry becomes a “vehicle of reinvention and transformation as France is attempting to recover after the war.”

Is a Greek production inevitable? In Thomopoulos’ future plans could be the development of Alexander the Great, a project she began developing on HBO but was never filmed. She has never filmed in Greece and perhaps this would give her the opportunity to do so.