Alexander Payne is looking to make a major comeback by making the leap to streaming content. The Oscar-winning filmmaker is in talks with Amazon Studios to helm the legal drama The Burial. Amazon has been looking to add bigger names and more prolific directors to their roster.
Payne won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Sideways in 2005 and then for The Descendants in 2012. Sideways also won a Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, as did Election in the year 2000. Unfortunately, his latest project, the 2017 Matt Damon vehicle Downsizing was more miss than hit - with a score of 51 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and reviews calling the film a confusing mishmash of different movies of varying levels of quality.
Deadline reports Payne is in negotiations to direct Amazon Studios' legal drama The Burial. Originally developed by Sony, The Burial will be produced by Jenette Kahn and Adam Richman and will be scripted by Doug Wright. The drama follows the true story of lawyer Willie Gary, and in particular, his work on the Jeremiah O'Keefe case. O'Keefe was the owner of a chain of funeral homes who claimed to have been a victim of fraud at the hands of a larger funeral parlor conglomerate. Gary won the case, earning his client a $500 million settlement, though it was later reduced to a still respectable $2oo million. Thanks to his success in representing small clients against the more powerful, Gary became known as "The Giant Killer".
The Burial is just one of a long list of original content planned for Amazon's upcoming slate. The streaming network is taking a serious turn with their content, greenlighting big budget features like their epic Lord of the Rings adaptation and Jack Ryan starring John Krasinski. The studio is also turning to big-name creators to help generate buzz around their revamped slate.
While Amazon seems hopeful this new direction will compete with HBO and Netflix, it has come at a price. To make room for their lofty content, the network turned down all of their incoming comedy pitches and has canceled a slew of preexisting series like Jean-Claude Van Johnson, One Mississippi, and I Love Dick. Tig Notaro and Diablo Cody's One Mississippi managed two seasons before receiving the ax; the other two series were only given a single season each.
Amazon has often been considered more cutthroat when it comes to approving or canceling shows, frequently pulling the plug on a series after only one season if success isn't met immediately. But with Netflix's shocking cancelations of The Get Down and Disjointed and Google's recent push to block YouTube on Amazon devices, it's become quite clear that competition is heating up in the streaming market.