How Harvey Weinstein, Nancy Dubuc Snuck Paul Dano and Gillian Anderson Onto Mini-Series ‘War & Peace’

“We had a good family to help get through the cold. And lots of vodka,” series star Dano says

English and literature students rejoice.

Soon, you’ll have a new way to skirt Leo Tolstoy’s 1,200 page “War and Peace,” the epic 1869 novel once ranked by Newsweek as the number one book of all time, and ranked by many as an impossibly tough one to both read and bring to the screen.

Nancy Dubuc, Rob Sharenow, and Harvey Weinstein gave a few Hollywood insiders a sneak peek of “War & Peace,” four-week, eight-hour limited series version starring Paul Dano, Gillian Anderson and “Downton Abbey’s” Lily James at a screening at the London in West Hollywood on Monday night.

Besides Dano and Anderson, Greta Scacchi, and James Norton represented the cast, while guests included Dano’s girlfriend Zoe Kazan, Lorelei Linklater and artist Jeremy Kost.

The British-themed London hotel was an appropriate locale given the co-production between the BBC and The Weinstein Company.

“We suggested Paul Dano, [and] Lily James. They said no,” Harvey Weinstein told the crowd inside the screening room. “We sent Mossad secret agents … they said yes. A&E suggested Gillian Anderson, who we would take in a flash.”

Weinstein recanted an oft-told chapter of the mogul’s origin story, that involves an eye injury he had as a tween. Kept out of school, his home became a book-nook, spurred on by neighbor Francis Goldstein, who was a librarian. Along with other great works digested on a life-altering literature bender (including “Gone with the Wind”) he credits Tolstoy with fostering his desire to tell stories.

“I ended up on the wrong end of a bayonette,” Weinstein said, which is exactly what happens to hundreds of Russian soldiers in the first two hours screened. Following multiple prominent families during battles with Napoleon, there is a cinematic production value of 1800’s St. Petersberg littered with period ships, Moscow castles criss-crossed by sleighs, and wide blood-soaked battlefields that makes “Downton Abbey’s” brief interludes of World War I battles look quaint.

That production value was earned.

“We had a huge six month journey in Russia, Lithuania and Latvia,” Dano said. “We had a good family to help get through the cold. And lots of vodka.”

The longform dramatic series is already a tonic of sorts for Brits suffering post-“Downton” withdrawal. Julian Fellowes‘ series aired its finale on Christmas, as the similarly themed modern iteration of period costume drama has already debuted there, starting strong with a 25 share in the U.K.

Billed as “an epic three-network” event, the series debuts in multiplex version, simulcasting on Lifetime, A&E, and History beginning on Jan. 18.