Chris_Meloni-1-Harold_and_Kumar_Escape_From_Guantanamo_BayLaw & Order: Special Victims Unit star Chris Meloni has spent his own money to option Legends of A Suicide, a collection of five short stories and a novella by David Vann that focus on the tough relationship between a boy and his Alaskan father, leading up to the latter’s suicide. Meloni plans to mount the book as a feature film which he will direct and star in. He will also write the first draft, and produce through his Yo DC Boy Productions banner.

Meloni recently co-directed, co-wrote and starred in National Lampoon’s Dirty Movie, a comedy that is looking for distribution. Vann’s book couldn’t be more different. Meloni, no stranger to dark material in the HBO series Oz and the Law & Order spinoff, sparked to the edgy prose penned by Vann, who previously wrote A Mile Down. Legends Of A Suicide was published earlier this month by Harper Perennial to glowing reviews.

“The guy’s writing just seduced me,” Meloni told me this afternoon, in between scenes shot in lower Manhattan. The NBC series, in its 11th season, is enjoying its best ratings ever, he said, since new episodes moved to the Wednesday 10 PM time-slot vacated by Jay Leno. “I’ve yet to figure out whether all the stories can be molded into what I see as a beautifully written, intimate portrait of a father and son struggling to communicate, in a relationship that never forms a real foundation. It is a story with no easy answers, and a very poetic ending. I was drawn to the no-easy-answers part of it. It’s a little like `A Serious Man’ in that regard, in that many people can see it and walk away with a different interpretation of what it actually meant. Vann’s writing is stark, beautiful and intimate, and to put it in that great outdoors landscape, the water, the fishing, there are contrasting elements and images that just struck me.”

Meloni’s Gersh reps closed the book deal this week with Vann’s reps at Inkwell Management. Meloni, hopes the project will serve as a potential next career step.

“I’ve been on an active search to find projects that can help me transition if and when the `Law & Order’ gig should end, not that I’m making a prediction on that,” Meloni said. “I want to figure out stuff for life after this show. This came about after I went to publishers and told them I was interested in finding material to put my stamp on and bring to the screen. One of the books had me written all over it, until I was told Robert De Niro had it.  And then this one came along.”