'Locke and Key' Passed Over at Hulu as WME Shops Carlton Cuse Drama

Carlton Cuse_Lock & Key Cover_Split - Publicity - H 2018
Todd Williamson/Getty Images for Amazon; Courtesy of IDW Publishing

IDW's beloved Locke and Key graphic novel has hit yet another speed bump in its road to the screen.

Hulu has passed on the drama based on Joe Hill's graphic novel from showrunner Carlton Cuse. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that WME, which represents Cuse and hot director Andy Muschietti (It), and IDW Entertainment are holding screenings for the potential series in a bid to find another home for the project. 

Sources say Hulu executives, including new chief content officer Joel Stillerman (who launched The Walking Dead on AMC) and senior vp Craig Erwich — who greenlighted the pilot — wanted to pick up the project, but new CEO Randy Freer (who joined in October) had the final say and insisted on bypassing the drama about a mother (Frances O'Connor) who moves her family into a haunted house after the patriarch is brutally murdered. Sources say Freer ultimately did not like the show after Hulu paid to keep the writers room open long after the pilot. Seven scripts have already been completed. Hulu declined comment.

That's when WME came in. The agency teamed with IDW and set up screenings of the pilot for multiple outlets. Co-star Samantha Mathis acknowledged the project was being taken out elsewhere in a recent interview at SXSW, noting Locke and Key was being shopped to "Amazon, Netflix and everyone right now" after Hulu's pass. 

The Hulu pass is just the latest obstacle in the title's path to the screen. The horror thriller was originally developed for television at Fox, which went to pilot on a take from Josh Friedman (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) during the 2010-11 broadcast season. The drama, from executive producers Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Steven Spielberg and starring Mark Pellegrino, Miranda Otto, Jesse McCartney, Sarah Bolger and Nick Stahl, did not move forward. (It was screened to overwhelming response at Comic-Con.) Universal then grabbed the rights to the comic with Kurtzman and Orsi attached to produce a feature adaptation, which ultimately did not move forward.

Flash-forward to May 2016, when IDW Entertainment CEO Ted Adams and president David Ozer teamed with Circle of Confusion (The Walking Dead) to take a second stab at a small-screen take. The effort was taken out to buyers and landed at Hulu with a pilot order in April 2017, with the streamer edging outlets including Netflix, HBO and FX for the project from showrunner Cuse and Hill attached to pen the script.

Locke and Key is a horror/fantasy series that revolves around three siblings (Jack Mulhern, Megan Carpentier, Jackson Robert Scott) who, after the gruesome murder of their father, move to their ancestral home in Maine only to find the house has magical keys that give them an array of powers. Little do they know, a devious demon also wants the keys and will stop at nothing to attain them.

Comic creator Hill and Cuse collaborated on the pilot script and exec produce alongside Muschietti, Barbara Muschietti and Lindsey Springer, who serves as head of Cuse's production company. Ozer, Adams and Hill also exec produce for IDW. The cast includes Nate Corddry as the children's uncle.

That Hulu would ultimately pass after so much internal support for Locke and Key is a surprise. The streamer, hot on the success of Emmy winner The Handmaid's Tale and strong reviews for The Looming Tower, is poised to become a larger part of the Disney fold amid the company's pending Fox deal that includes the company's share of the streamer. Disney will have a 60 percent stake in Hulu, which, should the deal clear regulatory hurdles, would be envisioned as a destination for edgier fare. (Cuse recently inked an overall deal with Disney-owned ABC Studios.)