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The streaming outlet, which recently topped 17 million subscribers, has landed Catch-22, the limited series from Paramount Television and Anonymous Content starring, directed and executive produced by Clooney. It’s the Oscar winner’s first TV series regular role in nearly two decades, after NBC’s ER. Two days after The Hollywood Reporter reported that the project had landed at Hulu, the company used its platform Sunday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour to confirm the series pickup.
Clooney, whose paycheck for each of the six episodes is in the $1 million ballpark, will exec produce alongside Luke Davies (Lion) and David Michod (War Machine). Paramount Television owned the rights to Joseph 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.)
In order for the Catch-22 project to finally become a reality, Powell tapped Richard Brown and Steve Golin of Anonymous Content — with whom Paramount TV has an overall deal — to find the perfect writers. Golin and Brown brought writers Davies and Michod to Powell and a year later, the duo pitched what the Paramount TV president described as a “thoughtful take” on the material. Not long after, Clooney’s CAA agent, Bryan Lourd, and co-head of TV Joe Cohen called Powell with the news that Clooney loved the book and wanted to meet.
Powell sent all six scripts to Clooney and his producing partner, Grant 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 recalled 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.)
Heller’s Catch-22 was originally adapted into a 1970 Paramount feature film directed by Mike Nichols and starring Alan Arkin, Martin Balsam (who played the role Clooney is set to take on), Richard Benjamin and Bob Newhart. Richard Dreyfuss later starred in an ABC half-hour pilot produced by Paramount Television in 1973 that never went forward.
The novel is set in Italy during World War II and tells the story of Yossarian, a U.S. Air Force bombardier trying to fulfill his service requirements so he can go home. The novel’s title refers to the paradox of requirements where airmen who are deemed mentally unfit to fly are not obligated to do so, but anyone who applies to stop flying is deemed sane enough to fly.
Clooney and his Smokehouse Pictures producing partner Grant Heslov (Good Night, and Good Luck, Argo, The Ides of March) will direct and executive produce. Davies and Michod, along with Anonymous Content’s Brown and Golin, are also on board as exec producers.
Catch-22 will mark Clooney’s return to the small screen following his Emmy-nominated turn on NBC’s ER. His TV credits also include Memphis Beat, Roseanne, Sisters and The Facts of Life. On the big screen, the actor’s work includes Oscar wins for his supporting turn in Syriana and as a producer on best picture winner Argo. Clooney was nominated for writing Good Night, and Good Luck and scored lead actor Oscar nominations for The Descendants, Up in the Air and Michael Clayton. His directing credits include Suburbicon, which he also wrote and produced; The Monuments Men; The Ides of March; Leatherheads; Good Night, and Good Luck; and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
Catch-22 with Clooney attached represents a coup for Paramount Television. The company also is behind Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, the upcoming Emma Stone-Jonah Hill starrer Maniac from director Cary Fukunaga (True Detective) and TNT’s forthcoming The Alienist. Paramount TV also recently announced development on Girls Code, a female-driven tech comedy set up at Freeform, with Paul Feig attached to direct.
The collaboration between Paramount TV and Anonymous Content has produced four shows: 13 Reasons Why, The Alienist, Maniac and Epix’s Berlin Station. Anonymous Content, which is also behind USA Network’s Mr. Robot and Netflix’s The O.A., recently extended its first-look deal with Paramount Television through 2019.
Clooney becomes the latest A-lister to move to television. Jennifer Aniston is set to star opposite Reese Witherspoon in a morning news show drama that landed at Apple with a two-season order, while Julia Roberts has signed on to star in Sam Esmail’s take on the popular podcast Homecoming, which landed at Amazon with a two-season pickup.
For Hulu, Catch-22 joins a roster of originals that includes The Handmaid’s Tale, The Looming Tower, The First, Castle Rock, Shut Eye, The Path, Runaways and more.
Jan. 14, 8:30 a.m. Updated to reflect Hulu’s official confirmation.
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