Jonathan Ames and Jason Schwartzman Teaming Up for 1950s Rome-Set Comedy (Exclusive)

7:09 AM PST 01/25/2013 by Jordan Zakarin
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The author-showrunner and actor are co-writing an adaptation of a Bernard Malamud book of short stories; Ames also working on several more projects.

A Bored to Death movie isn't the only project on which Jonathan Ames and Jason Schwartzman are collaborating.

Ames made Schwartzman the star of his 2009-11 HBO comedy, which might receive a second go-round as a telefilm. Now close friends, the two have optioned Pictures of Fidelman, Bernard Malamud's collection of short stories, and will adapt it as the basis for a movie.

The stories detail the adventures of Arthur Fidelman, a hapless art student who travels to Rome in the mid-20th century. The film largely would be drawn from two stories, "Still Life" and "Naked Nude," though others might bleed into the script. Schwartzman -- who is filming Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel -- would star as Fidelman, who gets himself in "various comedic entanglements and perilous situations."

The plan is to have the film, which would be produced by Ames' manager and Bored to Death co-producer Stephanie Davis, shoot in Rome. Financing is not yet attached.

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Ames also optioned the Donald Westlake novel 361, which he's adapting with American Animal writer-director-star Matt D'Elia. "We're trying to make a really cool, one of these great B-pictures, a real revenge story," he tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Ames is working on several other projects, as well, including a feature script adaptation of Wake Up, Sir! -- his 2005 novel about a struggling writer, his valet and the time they spend at an Upstate New York artist colony; Ames hopes to make his directorial debut on that project. His new novella, You Were Never Really Here, a neo-noir thriller, is being expanded into a full novel, and there are several treatments in the works as well, including one inspired by Hurricane Sandy.

"I'm rolling a couple of weird eggs down a hill," Ames says. "Eggs don’t roll that well -- film projects and Hollywood projects have their own bizarre trajectory -- so I'm rolling them down the hill and seeing what can get done."

As for the Bored to Death movie, he clarifies that it would be on television, not in theaters, and says it won't be greenlighted for production until he finishes the script. He's run ideas by Schwartzman -- who played a struggling writer moonlighting as an unlicensed private eye -- as well as co-stars Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson, and downplayed the story ideas that Danson spoke off-the-cuff about in October.

"HBO has always been very good to me," he says, "and I had a meeting with them and said: 'I think this would be a fun thing to try. I had so many ideas for season four, so many interesting images, can I have a shot at maybe making a movie or writing a movie?' And they’ve always been good to me, and they said yes."

Bored to Death averaged just over a million viewers in its second season, during which it had a Sunday night time slot; another Brooklyn-set HBO comedy with a similar core audience, the Golden Globe-winning Girls, bowed to similar numbers in its premiere earlier in January. Bored to Death's ratings fell when moved to Mondays, a traditionally weak night for HBO.

Email: Jordan.Zakarin@THR.com; Twitter: @JordanZakarin

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