1997 Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner Peter Fonda ("Ulee's Gold") stars in "The Tempest," an inventive re-telling of Shakespeare's magical tale of love, betrayal and freedom set on a mysterious isle in a Mississippi bayou during the Civil War.
In the tradition of "Gulliver's Travels," "The Odyssey" and "Merlin," spectacular visual effects from the Frame Store (which created the special effects for NBC's "Merlin") bring to life an enchanted island, controlled by Gideon Prosper (Fonda), whose powerful magic transforms men into birds and quiet seas into raging tempests, creating an illusion of freedom, while at the same time enslaving both sorcerer and apprentice.
Harold Perrineau, Jr. ("Oz") stars as Ariel, the slave whom Prosper frees, but who remains imprisoned by his master's magic. Five-time Emmy nominee John Glover ("Frasier," "Nutcracker: Money, Madness & Murder") stars as Anthony, Gideon Prosper's usurping younger brother who plots to lead the Union troops into an ambush. Katherine Heigl ("My Father The Hero") stars as Miranda, Prosper's devoted daughter who finds herself trapped betwen her loyalty to her father and her love of a young Union soldier.
It is 1851, and Gideon Prosper (Fonda) has abdicated his rightful position as overseer of Prosperity, the family plantation choosing instead to devote his time to the study of magic and sorcery, leaving the day-to-day responsibility for the plantation to his scoundrel younger brother, Anthony (Glover). When Gideon discovers that Anthony has been mistreating their slaves, he uses magic to save the life of Ariel (Perrineau), a young slave whose mother has been teaching Prosper the art of magic. Anthony brings charges against Gideon - falsely accusing him of freeing Ariel. Just as Gideon is about to be executed, he manages to escape into the swamps with his young daughter, Miranda, aided by an old friend, Gonzo (Dennis Redfield).
Some 12 years later, on the eve of the battle of Vicksburg, Prosper and 16-year-old Miranda (Heigl) are living contentedly in the bayou, along with Ariel, whom Prosper controls through a spell that transforms Ariel into a bird. When a young Union officer, Frederick (Eddie Mills), is wounded by Rebels while on a scouting mission and is rescued by Miranda, Prosper's harmonious bayou retreat is threatened. Frederick and Miranda instantly fall in love. But when Prosper disapproves of Frederick, Miranda chooses to leave her father and the bayou, guiding Frederick through the swamp back to his regiment.
Meanwhile, Anthony and Gonzo are involved in a plot to lead the Union soldiers into an ambush at Vicksburg, when they discover that Prosper is alive. And Ariel demands that Prosper release him from the spell and grant him freedom so that he can help the Union troops. In spite of Prosper's attempt to escape the real world on his remote bayou island, he now must use his most powerful magic to protect his daughter, not only from Frederick, but from the base swamp dweller, Gator Man (John Pyper-Ferguson). But his toughest challenge is to give those he cares about, Miranda and Ariel, the freedom to make their own choices and mistakes.
Bonnie Raskin ("Killing Mr. Griffin," "She Fought Alone") and Emmy-Award nominee Jack Bender ("Northern Exposure") are executive producers of the presentation from Bonnie Raskin Productions in association with NBC Studios. Bender also directs the screenplay from James Henerson ("Getting Gotti," and "And The Sea Will Tell").
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