How the epic ‘Pillars of the Earth’ was built for TV

Transforming Ken Follett best-seller The Pillars of the Earth into a TV miniseries took almost as much time as the construction of Kingsbridge Cathedral, his novel's mythical 12th-century architectural masterpiece.

More than 20 years after Pillars' release, Follett's sweeping medieval tale of war, deceit and power-mongering — starring Donald Sutherland, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell and Eddie Redmayne — premieres as a Starz Channel eight-part series tonight (10 ET/PT).

"It's my best book, and I wasn't going to take any chances on a story that couldn't be told in less than six hours," says Follett, the former British newspaperman who has had far faster Hollywood turnarounds with his thrillers Eye of the Needle and The Third Twin, among seven of his 19 books that have been turned into theatrical releases, TV movies or miniseries.

The nearly 1,000-page Pillars— which has sold more than 14 million copies in 30 languages and has been turned into three board games and a just-released iPad app — was envisioned as a one-night FX Channel movie in 2002, says Rola Bauer of Germany-based Tandem Communications, which secured financing for the miniseries.

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