March 14, 2013 11:30am PT by Lacey Rose
Ang Lee's Oscar Follow-Up: An FX Pilot
Mere weeks after winning the Academy Award for best director, Ang Lee has signed on for his next act: television.
In a matter of months, the Life of Pi helmer will head to Morocco to direct the pilot for FX’s Tyrant, a drama project revolving around unassuming American family drawn into the workings of a turbulent Middle East nation from Homeland’s Howard Gordon, Gideon Raff and Lost’s Craig Wright. Although the offer was made before the Academy Awards -- at that time, something of a pipe dream for the show’s producers -- Lee didn’t express interest until after the Feb. 24 awards show in which he beat out rivals including Steven Spielberg (Lincoln) and David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) for the Oscar.
Lee’s first foray into series television is as much a commentary on the state of cable TV as it is on that of film. It's no secret that cable is increasingly known for its rich character development and envelope-pushing plot lines, a shift that has coincided with the major film studios' growing reliance on superhero tentpoles over character-driven stories. In making the leap, Lee will join a growing cadre of brand-name film directors who have waded into television, including Martin Scorsese (Boardwalk Empire), Michael Mann (Luck) and Gus Van Sant (Boss).
Lee will remain with Tyrant as an executive producer if -- or, more likely, when -- it is ordered to series.
STORY: 'Homeland' Producers Howard Gordon, Gideon Raff Sell Middle East Drama to FX
Lee brings with him a résumé that is as diverse as it is impressive: He also won the best director Oscar for 2005's Brokeback Mountain and was nominated for 2000's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and his credits also include Hulk, Sense and Sensibility, The Ice Storm and The Wedding Banquet. Life of Pi -- which earned 11 Oscar nominations, including best picture, and won four -- has grossed more than $600 million at the worldwide box office.
"Ang Lee has demonstrated time and again an ability to present characters with such depth and specificity that they reveal the universal human condition," said FX Networks president John Landgraf. "No one could be a more perfect filmmaker to bring Howard Gordon, Gideon Raff and Craig Wright's Tyrant to indelible life."
Added Bert Salke, president of Fox 21, which is producing Tyrant with FX Productions: "The fact that the brilliant Ang Lee has signed on to direct his first project for television speaks to the extraordinary nature of Tyrant. Ang Lee, Gideon Raff, Craig Wright and Howard Gordon are master storytellers at the height of their powers, and the material is incredible.”
Raff, who created and single-handedly wrote every episode of Hatufim, the Israeli series that inspired Homeland, created the concept for Tyrant, which Gordon and Wright developed for U.S. TV though Gordon's 20th Century Fox Television-based production company, Teakwood Lane. Gordon, Raff and Wright are all attached as executive producers, in association with Israel's Keshet Broadcasting. If Tyrant is ordered to series, Wright will serve as the series’ showrunner.
Casting on Tyrant has not yet begun, though sources close to the project suggest the series will rely heavily on Middle Eastern actors. FX, which famously passed on Showtime’s Homeland, landed the spec following an intense cable bidding war. (Showtime was not among the bidders.)
Lee, a three-time Academy Award winner, is repped by CAA and Schreck Rose Dapello & Adams.
Email: Lacey.Rose@THR.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose