EXCLUSIVE: In a competitive situation, HBO has bought Beat The Reaper, a drama series project from New Regency executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio. The project, which feature scribes Brian Koppelman and David Levien (Ocean’s Thirteen) are writing, executive producing and attached to direct, is based on the debut book by physician/novelist Josh Bazell. It is a criminal/medical thriller about a young ER doctor whose life is upended when a patient comes through his ward that recognizes the internist from his old life — when he used to work for a notorious crime family. As his past comes crashing back and his enemies from his old life try to destroy him, he tries to hold his new life together while discovering that everything he knew about his past may have been wrong.
New Regency co-produces the HBO project with DiCaprio’s Appian Way and Rick Yorn’s LBI Entertainment. The three companies first came together three years ago when New Regency acquired rights to the book just as it was published in January 2009 for a feature film. Julie Yorn, DiCaprio and Appian Way’s Jennifer Davisson Killoran were attached to produce the movie, once eyed as a potential starring vehicle for DiCaprio, with Koppelman and Levien set to write. DiCaprio, Koppleman, Levien, Davisson Killoran and Julie Yorn will now executive produce the HBO series version, along with New Regency founder/majority owner Arnon Milchan and former chairmen Bob Harper and Hutch Parker who brought the book to the indie production company. Harper and Parker left New Regency at the end of August and were succeeded by new president/CEO Brad Weston. As part of his review of the company’s development slate, Weston identified Beat The Reaper as better suited as a TV series. The project garnered interest from four networks before landing at HBO.
This marks New Regency’s first TV project since the 2008 shutdown of Regency Television. New Regency continues with its plans to relaunch Regency TV, and a search is underway for an executive to run it. For DiCaprio, managed by LBI Entertainment, the deal for Beat The Reaper comes on the heels of another sale to HBO of a drama project based on a book: The Lobotomist, a series adaptation of Jack El-Hai’s novel. On the TV side, Koppelman and Levien, repped by CAA and 3 Arts, previously wrote the 2003 ABC drama pilot The Street Lawyer and created and executive produced the ESPN series Tilt, on which they also directed the pilot.