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Posted at 06:29 PM ET, 11/30/2011

David Milch signs deal to produce projects based on works of William Faulkner; HBO has first dibs

David Milch and William Faulkner — coming soon, to HBO.

Milch has signed a deal with the William Faulkner Literary Estate to produce films and TV series based on Faulkner bibliography — 19 novels, 125 short stories, some poetry, essays, and such. And HBO has first dibs on whatever Milch churns up, whether it’s for film or TV.

The deal excludes any Faulkner properties currently contracted with other parties. It’s probably too late, for instance, to save “As I Lay Dying” from the clutches of James Franco, who reportedly has written a script and plans to direct a flick based on the novel. Yes, the guy who couldn’t even stay focused long enough to co-host a three-hour trophy show is going to wrangle into a two hour movie a stream of consciousness novel that weaves the words of more than a dozen speakers, over nearly 60 chapters, as they tell the story of a family’s effort to bury Mom among her people, against all odds. The mind reels.

Throw your mind back to high school lit class: in addition to the aforementioned “Dying,” Faulkner’s the guy who wrote “The Sound and the Fury,” and “Light in August,” “Absalom, Absalom,” “Go Down, Moses,” and “The Reivers,” among other works.

Faulkner also spent a stretch in Dottyville on the Pacific, working on movie scripts for adaptations of, say, Ernest Hemingway’s “To Have and Have Not” and Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep” – both starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

Post “Deadwood” (above), David Milch is producing HBO films based on Faulkner bibliography. (Doug Hyun - HBO)
Getting back to “Milch” – the guy who co-created “NYPd Blue” with Steven Bochco, and then went on to make HBO’s profusely profane iambic pentameter western “Deadwood,” and HBO’s metaphysical surfer-dude drama “John from Cincinnati.” He’s going to partner with Lee Caplin, executor of the William Faulkner Literary Estate, in deciding which Faulkner pieces to foist upon HBO’s paying public.

And, somewhere in this deal is a clause that secures Milch’s “further services” on its upcoming and much-ballyhooed race-horse drama “Luck,” which stars Dustin Hoffman, and debuts Jan. 29.

“I’m delighted to expand my longstanding relationship with HBO to encompass the adaptation of some of the most important literary works by any American writer into television films and series,” Milch said in Wednesday’s announcement.

“As we embark on this ambitious project, our first commitment is to serve the material, and we look forward to identifying and collaborating with the best screenwriters and filmmakers to help each of the pieces find its ideal form onscreen,” he concluded – in record time for Milch, who has broken world records for speechifying in a single breath at TV press tours when he’s come to discuss his next television project. TV critics are still talking about his appearance at the tour to plug “John from Cincinnati” – it was epic.

By  |  06:29 PM ET, 11/30/2011

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