|Directed by Andrew Grieve|
Original language(s) English
|Country of origin United Kingdom|
No. of episodes 8
|Based on Mr. Midshipman Hornblower
Hornblower and the Hotspur
by C. S. Forester|
Starring Ioan Gruffudd Robert Lindsay Paul McGann Paul Copley Sean Gilder Jamie Bamber
Hornblower is the umbrella title of a series of British historical fiction war television films based on three of C. S. Forester's ten novels about the fictional character Horatio Hornblower, a Royal Navy officer during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.
The series ran from 7 October 1998 until 6 January 2003, with Ioan Gruffudd in the title role. It was produced by the British broadcaster Meridian Television, and was shown on ITV in the UK and A&E in the US. It is often repeated on ITV4.
Other well-known actors have appeared in guest roles, including Denis Lawson, Antony Sher, Ian McNeice, Andrew Tiernan, Samuel West, Christian Coulson, Cherie Lunghi, Greg Wise and Ronald Pickup.
The film series
The series consists of eight television films, which are notable for their high production values. All were later released on DVD (with the original aspect ratio of 16:9 widescreen in Europe and 4:3 in the US). In the US, the series was retitled Horatio Hornblower, and some of the films were known by different titles. The eight films cover the events of just three of the ten novels (Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, Lieutenant Hornblower, and Hornblower and the Hotspur), and various alterations and additions are made to the source material (e.g., the recurring characters of Lt. Archie Kennedy, Matthews and Styles).
Captain Pellew's ship, HMS Indefatigable, is represented by the Grand Turk, a modern replica of the frigate HMS Blandford built in 1741. To represent Hornblower's ship, HMS Hotspur, the Earl of Pembroke, a civilian ship, underwent some conversion. The Baltic trading schooner Julia and the brig Phoenix of Dell Quay were used to represent the smaller vessels. No real 74-gun ship existed any longer at the time of production (the last one, HMS Implacable, was scuttled in 1949), so HMS Justinian and HMS Renown had to be recreated as models. For the first series a quarter of a 74-gun ship (one exterior side and three open sides to shoot live action on several decks) called the pontoon was built. Later live action on the quarterdeck or the gundeck below was shot on the actual HMS Victory. Eleven scale models, ranging from 4.5 to 7 m in length, were used for the battle scenes, the largest weighing 1400 kg, and made with working rigging and cannons that were fired by remote control. Shooting locations included the Black Sea, the Livadia Palace, Portugal, and the former administration (Melville) building of the Royal William Yard and the Barbican, Plymouth in England.
Ioan Gruffudd had shown interest in participating in more Hornblower films. In 2007, he reportedly discussed the possibility of a big-screen version of Hornblower, and was attempting to gain the rights to the books by C. S. Forester. He was quoted as saying "A&E decided that since it's such an expensive venture to make these movies for television, they're not going to make any more at this point. So it's down to me, I think, to try to bring it back to life."