While Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman bide their time until the various machinations preventing the adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower subside, the pair has decided to busy themselves with bringing the Old West back to HBO in a series about the highly romanticized gunslinger, Doc Holliday.
Given the current television climate, it could be said that HBO was years ahead of the curve when it debuted the foul-mouthed western drama Deadwood in 2004. It is now a little over five years after David Milch’s well-regarded series ended, and nearly every television network is scrambling to have their own period piece ready by next season. For whatever reason, at the time, other networks did not follow Deadwood with their own westerns – instead waiting for current trendsetter AMC to launch Hell On Wheels before following suit.
Now that the genre is ready to re-emerge as a frontrunner in the TV entertainment landscape, HBO is joining suit by doing what it does best: attracting big-name talent to head up their western.
After inking the deal with HBO, Goldsman quickly gathered frequent collaborator Ron Howard to direct the pilot for the series, which is adapted from the recently published and highly-praised novel Doc from author Mary Doria Russell.
Russell’s novel, which finds an ailing Holliday embroiled in a love triangle between his prostitute wife and Wyatt Earp, is noted for taking a grounded approach with Holliday and Earp – saving the heavier bouts of fictionalization for the ongoing romantic struggles between the three characters.
Of course, setting a series with Holliday as the main character presents at least two unique challenges. For one, it will place Wyatt Earp in the unfamiliar role of second fiddle, which may alienate those more accustomed to the mustachioed lawman playing lead in such stories. Secondly (and perhaps most difficult), the series will ask audiences to accept a more toned-down version of Holliday – requiring many to relinquish the memory of Val Kilmer’s oft-referenced, and colorful characterization of the character in Tombstone.
Strangely enough, Goldsman, having won an Academy Award for writing A Beautiful Mind, will not take lead scripting duties on the pilot, but will rather hand the responsibility off to Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, the duo behind Accepted and the recent Bret Ratner film Tower Heist. While it sounds questionable to have writers known mostly for a pair of middling comedic screenplays to tackle what could be rather heavy material, Cooper and Collage have recently turned in scripts for Moby Dick, Marco Polo and Exodus, so those efforts may be seen as a positive for this as-yet untitled program.
Goldsman’s overall deal with HBO will see him be able to write, produce and direct this and any other series that may develop from the partnership. According to Goldsman, he looked to HBO because of the network’s past history with genre work and commitment to putting story first. “I think that the line between film and television is getting blurrier and blurrier, and I think that’s pretty exciting creatively…What I love about HBO is that storytelling seems to be king and that genre seems to be almost irrelevant.”
Although it’s not the resolution to Deadwood fans have yearned for, many will simply be happy to see the western return to HBO.
Screen Rant will have more updates on this Doc Holliday series as more news develops.