George Clooney Reduces 'Catch-22' Role; Kyle Chandler Takes Over as Lead in Hulu Mini

George Clooney is reducing his role in Hulu's forthcoming Catch-22 miniseries.

The two-time Oscar winner and Emmy nominee has reduced his role in the six-episode limited series. Emmy winner Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) will take over the part originally earmarked for Clooney, while the latter will change roles to one less demanding as he also juggles producing and directing duties. 

In the series based on Joseph Heller's seminal novel, Clooney was poised to star as Col. Cathcart, the part originally played by Martin Balsam in the 1970 feature adaptation. That will now be played by Chandler. Clooney, who made the decision to take a lesser part in what is his first series regular role since NBC's ER, will now portray Scheisskopf. Catch-22 reunites Chandler with Argo producer Clooney.

Catch-22 is the story of an artful dodger, Yossarian (to be played by Christopher Abbott, taking on the role played by Alan Arkin in the 1970 movie), a U.S. Air Force bombardier in World War II who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy, but rather his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to avoid his military assignments, he’ll be in violation of "Catch-22," a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule that specifies that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers which are real and immediate is the process of a rational mind; a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but a request to be removed from duty is evidence of sanity and therefore makes him ineligible to be relieved from duty.  

Chandler's Cathcart is the commanding officer who continues to send Yossarian out on missions. The character takes himself very seriously. Clooney's Scheisskopf is a training commander at cadet school in California. He is ambitious, humorless, inept, angry, sadistic — and above all else, obsessed with parades and winning parade tournaments. At cadet school he makes the men’s lives a living hell. Deep down he’s just an angry idiot, so there’s no real danger he’ll ever be sent overseas. And then: He is sent overseas. As the head of operations for the entire Mediterranean Theater. And straight back into Yossarian’s life.

Chandler received back-to-back Emmy nominations for his lead role on Netflix's since-canceled drama Bloodline. His TV credits include Early Edition and an Emmy for guesting on Grey's Anatomy. On the film side, he next appears in Universal's Neil Armstrong biopic First Man and Warner Bros.' Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Chandler's feature credits include Game Night and Super 8. He is repped by Gersh and Brillstein Entertainment Partners.

Hulu landed Catch-22 — with Clooney attached to star — in a competitive situation with multiple outlets bidding. Clooney, whose paycheck for each of the six episodes is said to be in the $1 million ballpark, is executive producing the Paramount Television and Anonymous Content drama alongside co-writers Luke Davies (Lion) and David Michod (War Machine). Clooney and his Smokehouse Pictures producing partner Grant Heslov (Good Night and Good Luck, Argo, The Ides of March) will co-direct and exec produce. Anonymous Content's Richard Brown and Steve Golin also exec produce. Ellen Kuras recently joined the series and will produce and direct two of the six episodes. Hugh Laurie co-stars as Major de Coverley.

Paramount Television owned the rights to Heller's 1961 satirical novel and developed the series under head Amy Powell, who identified the book as one of the first projects she'd like to take on since being tapped to run the studio. The project, taken out in December, drew interest from multiple SVOD outlets, with Hulu emerging on top. (The series is closed-ended and will tell a full story over six episodes; there will not be a second season.)

Powell sent all six scripts to Clooney and Heslov. They read them overnight. That led to a lunch with Powell, Heslov and Clooney, in which the actor asked if he could play the character Col. Cathcart. "He had incredible instincts on the material," Powell recalls of Clooney. "He talked about how he wanted to direct, what locations could be used and how he wanted to cast fresh faces to play the show's young soldiers. It was a love fest."  

Paramount TV and Clooney's plan is to make Catch-22 a global story and shoot on location in a bid to be as accurate to the source material as possible. Producers also want to use one of the handful of surviving World War II planes. (Davies and Michod went for a flight in one of them as research.)