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Timothy Olyphant lands lead in FX pilot

Untitled project is based on Elmore Leonard short story

Timothy Olyphant has been tapped as the lead in FX's drama pilot based on Elmore Leonard's short story "Fire in the Hole."

The untitled project, from Sony TV,Timberman/Beverly Prods. and creator/exec producer Graham Yost, centers on U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Olyphant) who returns to his hometown in Kentucky.

"He has a certain jaggedness, but he also loves his job," Yost said. "He is like an anachronism: He wears a hat, cowboy boots and a holster on his hip. It's a little bit like he was born 100 years too late."

That seems like a perfect fit for Olyphant, whose previous starring role on a series was as 1870s Sheriff Seth Bullock on HBO's "Deadwood."

Graham said he was high on Olyphant from the get-go because he could see him as an Elmore Leonard character, just like the two actors who, in his opinion, have best embodied Leonard personages on the big screen: George Clooney in "Out of Sight" and John Travolta in "Get Shorty."

"(The characters) are very good at what they do; they have confidence but without swagger and a great sense of humor in a dry way," Yost said.

As he is getting ready for end-of-May start of production on the pilot, to be directed by Michael Dinner, Yost already has received one big endorsement.

"One of the great thrills was getting to speak to Elmore a couple of weeks ago," Yost said. "He said he liked my adaptation a lot."

The casting of Olyphant follows a path similar to Glenn Close's casting on FX's "Damages." Close did a one-season stint on another FX drama, "The Shield," before being courted by the cable channel for the lead in "Damages." Olyphant, repped by CAA and Brillstein Entertainment, segues to the starring role on the Leonard project after a seasonlong gig on Sony/FX Prods.' "Damages."

The untitled Elmore Leonard pilot is one of two drama pilots greenlighted by FX this year, along with the Holt McCallany starrer "Lights Out."