Who would be the perfect casting as Leonardo da Vinci? Fans of Poldark star Aidan Turner (and he has many!) are certainly in for a treat as he’s playing legendary Italian artist, engineer and inventor in Amazon Prime Video’s new eight-part biopic, which has now been released in the UK and Ireland.
Set in Italy in the 1400s, the costume drama sees Leonardo da Vinci under suspicion of murder from a Milan police officer who begins looking into the genius's life and work in a bid to uncover exactly what links him to the case.
Aidan Turner says: “As we know, Leonardo da Vinci was a man who created an incredible body of work across so many disciplines. As an actor, to explore the inner workings of this great artist was a very exciting and humbling experience and I feel so fortunate to have worked with such a great team in Rome to make this series happen."
Created by Sherlock writer Stephen Thompson and The Man in the High Castle's Frank Spotnitz, the series also stars The Good Doctor’s Freddie Highmore as the police detective investigating da Vinci and James D'Arcy as real-life Italian prince Ludovico Sforza.
"The intention is not just to say that Leonardo was a genius, but to really show why he was a genius and have the audience understand what it was that made him so brilliant and radical and centuries ahead of this time," says Spotnitz. "To do that, you need to get really close to his work."
Release date for Leonardo on Amazon Prime Video
Eight-part drama Leonardo launched in the UK and Ireland on April 16 on Amazon Prime Video. A US release date is still to be confirmed.
What happens in the first episode of Leonardo... contains spoilers!
It all begins with Leonardo’s life hanging in the balance when he’s arrested for the murder of his beloved friend Caterina da Cremona, and he has to battle to clear his name in the face of intense questioning by dogged detective Stefano Giraldi.
"There's imagination involved. But there was a real element of mystery to Leonardo's life and so much we don't know," Aidan told us. "We try to get to the core of who this person was, and the man behind the artist."
The series also flashes back to Leonardo and Caterina’s first meeting when she is an artist’s model and he’s a young painter learning his craft. But as Caterina becomes Leonardo’s muse, it’s not long before his extraordinary gift is spotted and both he and Caterina are drawn into the heady and dangerous world of Italian high society.
Leonardo cast — Aidan Turner as Leonardo da Vinci
The Irish actor who takes the titular role in Leonardo earned a legion of fans for his portrayal of 18th century Cornish hero Ross Poldark (including his famous shirtless scything scene in Season 1) in the 2015 revival of the BBC1 series Poldark, based on the famous books by Winston Graham, which came to an end in 2019 after five hit series. Aidan also starred in the BBC’s supernatural comedy drama Being Human, alongside Russell Tovey. He’s also known for playing dwarf Kíli in The Hobbit movie trilogy and for appearances in Humans and the BBC1 Agatha Christie adaptation And Then There Were None in 2015.
Aidan Turner on researching and playing Leonardo da Vinci...
Aidan Turner told us: “I found out Leonardo da Vinci was a vegetarian, which I didn’t know! And I didn’t know about his unconventional upbringing either. He wasn’t educated formally but he must have been surrounded by well-educated young men of nobility. His talent must have exceeded everyone's expectations because we see that he became famous and wealthy quite young.
"He’s one of our greatest artists but I couldn’t find any previous dramas that revealed what motivated him. We're left with his great works and his inventions as an engineer, philosopher, botanist and anatomist, but we don't know about the man."
Leonardo cast — Freddie Highmore as Stefano Giraldi
Freddie Highmore plays Stefano Giraldi, the dogged police officer convinced Leonardo is a murderer. Child star Freddie rose to fame on the big screen in Finding Neverland and the 2005 Tim Burton version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory alongside Johnny Depp. Since then he’s taken the lead in the Psycho prequel series Bates Motel as serial killer Norman Bates, and is currently starring as Shaun Murphy, a surgeon with autism, in the The Good Doctor Season 4.
Leonardo cast — James D’Arcy as Ludovico Sforza
James D’Arcy plays Italian prince Ludovico Sforza. He's had a long career, but is best known for his portrayal of Howard Stark’s butler Edwin Jarvis in Marvel's TV series Agent Carter and the 2019 film Avengers: Endgame. He played Colonel Winnant in Christopher Nolan’s 2017 war movie Dunkirk and is known for playing murder suspect Lee Ashworth in the second series of ITV’s Broadchurch, as well as for starring in Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Homeland and Das Boot.
Leonardo cast — Matilda De Angelis as Caterina da Cremona...
Matilda De Angelis made a big impression in Sky Atlantic thriller The Undoing as spirited artist and murder victim Elena, alongside Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman. Now, the 25-year-old Italian actress is back in the world of art in her role as Leonardo’s friend and muse Caterina da Cremona, who is partly based on a real-life artist’s model. ‘There are letters in which Leonardo asked for a certain “Caterina” to model for him,’ she reveals. ‘And there's a sketch where you see this woman with childish eyes and a mysterious aura. That helped me build the character of this feminine but strong person.’
De Angelis, who’s currently filming the movie Robbing Mussolini, says she was captivated by the relationship between Leonardo and Caterina in the drama. ‘They are both misfits. We look at Leonardo's sexuality, but with Caterina he has this pure and honest platonic love, which is really modern and beautiful.’
Leonardo cast — Andrew Knott as Alfonso...
British actor Andrew Knott plays studio assistant Alfonso who is very tough on the student Leonardo da Vinci, especially in the first two episodes. Salford-born Andrew first made his name acting alongside the likes of Russell Tovey, James Corden and Dominic Cooper in the 2004 stage production of The History Boys which was then made into a hit movie in 2006. Andrew has also appeared as a character called Dirtbox in the BBC's hit comedy Gavin & Stacey, and as a child actor back in 2001 Andrew played Henry Green in the ITV drama Where The Heart Is? He's also since starred in hit international dramas such as Tin Star and Brave New World.
Who else is starring in Leonardo?
Max Bennett, aka Ross Poldark’s nemesis Monk Adderley, is joining his old cast mate Aidan Tuner in the show as real-life Italian politician Cesare Borgia. The cast also features plenty of Italian acting talent, including Bond star Giancarlo Giannini as painter and sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio who spots Leonardo's unusual falir and talent. Carlos Cuevas (Merlì) plays Salaì, Leonardo's apprentice and trusted friend, and look out for and Medici star Miriam Dalmazio.
Is there a Leonardo trailer?
Yes there is! Enjoy Aidan Turner as Leonardo da Vinci right here...
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