AMC Developing Football Drama 'The Real All Americans' (Exclusive)

Tommy Lee Jones 2010 Sundance Film Festival - P 2012
Matt Carr/Getty Images

Tommy Lee Jones 2010 Sundance Film Festival - P 2012

Producers are in discussions with Tommy Lee Jones to direct the pilot, about the Native American college football program that minted Olympian Jim Thorpe.

AMC is in the early stages of development on football drama The Real All Americans. Based on Sally Jenkins’ book about the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Penn., All Americans chronicles the school's storied football program created by U.S. cavalry officer Richard Henry Pratt, an abolitionist and early equal rights proponent who made a harrowing journey to the Dakota Territory in 1879 to recruit the school's first students.

Producers are in discussions with Tommy Lee Jones to direct the pilot if AMC moves forward. Nicholas Meyer, best known as the writer of various Star Trek films, is writing the script with Harry J. Ufland (the upcoming Robert De Niro-Diane Keaton romantic comedy The Wedding) on board as producer. 

Pratt’s football program had a stunning record of 167-88-13 and produced a string of famous athletes and coaches – including Olympian Jim Thorpe and coach Glenn “Pop” Warner. The subject matter is close to Jones’ heart. The actor, who grew up in Texas, is of Cherokee descent. He also played defensive tackle at Harvard, where he was a 1968 All-Ivy League nominee and played in the infamous ’68 Harvard-Yale game that featured a stunning 16-point Harvard comeback in the final minute. Jones recounted the story for the 2008 documentary Harvard Beats Yale 29-29.

All Americans would give AMC another period piece and also one that deals with racial issues. Hell on Wheels is set in 1865 during the post-Civil War construction of the first transcontinental railroad. The Western is AMC’s highest-rated series after The Walking Dead, with the first season averaging 3 million viewers after a series premiere watched by 4.4 million. In December, the show was renewed for a second season.

With Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Killing, AMC has five scripted dramas on its schedule. Rubicon was the only series in recent development seasons that did not make the cut for a second season. The high success ratio is a result of the network's selective development process. So if All Americans gets picked up to pilot, odds are good that the network will move forward to series.

“If there’s something we care enough about to get into the pilot process, we feel like we’re producing the first episode of the series,” AMC president Charlie Collier told The Hollywood Reporter. “And that requires a ton of rigorous development where we really take it ultra-seriously.”


Twitter: @MarisaGuthrie