lawrenceshulerdonnerEXCLUSIVE: HBO has put in development God Save Texas, a drama series project written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright (The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda And The Road To 9/11) and executive produced by X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner. It centers on an idealistic cowboy who, looking to save his ranch and marriage, tries to get elected to the Texas Legislature, where he becomes the target of the powerful energy lobby and learns how to survive in the crazy, brutal world of Texas politics.

hbologo3Wright, a native Texan and longtime observer of the political scene in Austin, is also a playwright. God Save Texas is based on his 2005 play Sonny’s Last Shot. Tony-winning veteran theater producer Margo Lion (Hairspray), who is working with Shuler Donner on adapting the Shuler Donner-produced feature The Secret Life Of Bees as a Broadway musical, gave her a copy of the play. Both felt Sonny’s Last Shot would be great as a TV series. “It was incredibly entertaining, very contemporary,” Shuler Donner said. “Every hot button issue that concerns our country: gun control, pro choice vs. pro life, our environment, voter fraud, immigration, gay marriage, is being played out in the gubernatorial race between Wendy Davis and Greg Abbot, but in a larger than life, overly heightened drama. Texas is like America…only more so.”

Shedding light on Texas politics is a timely subject, given the emergence of Texan politicians like Wendy Davis, Greg Abbott, Rick Perry and the Castro Brothers onto the national political scene, and the influence that Texas exerts over the rest of the country. A recent Time magazine cover story entitled “The United States Of Texas” argued “why the Lone Star State is America’s future.”

Shuler Donner and Lion reached out to Wright, who also has background as a screenwriter (The Siege, Noriega: God’s Favorite), and the three pitched the project to HBO. “I love to tell stories, and maybe that’s why I’ve never left Texas; it’s full of great characters you just never see anywhere else,” Wright said. “No other state is so stereotyped in the public imagination, so there’s plenty of opportunity to present this complex, intimate and often screwy world in a fresh and surprising manner. For better or worse, political ideas spill out of Texas and take an outsized place in the national conversation, as they certainly will in the next presidential election. Whether you love Texas or hate it, better to understand it, because here it comes again.” Shuler Donner, Lion and Wright are executive producing with Donners’ Co. president Jack Leslie.

God Save Texas expands Shuler Donner’s relationship with HBO where she executive produces drama Laughs Unlimited. The project, about a war vet’s struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, is awaiting a pilot greenlight after recently casting Melonie Diaz as the lead. On the feature side, she is coming off the success of the latest installment in the X-Men franchise, Days Of Future Past. The Donners’ Co. is also developing several other X-Men movies, including a new Wolverine sequel as well as Gambit and Deadpool. In addition, The Donners’ Co. is developing SYLO at Fox 2000; Gargoyles at Disney; Take A Hike at Fox Searchlight; Blest at Sony; and Weekends With Daisy at CBS Films.

Wright also has history with HBO — the pay cable network aired My Trip To Al-Qaeda, the movie adaptation of Wright’s one-man play, which he wrote and performed. Wright’s latest play, Camp David, about the 13 tumultuous days leading up to the signing of the Camp David Peace Accords in 1978 by Jimmy Carter, Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, is getting its world-premiere at the Arena Stage in Washington DC. Shuler Donner is repped by Hirsch Wallerstein; Wright, who also is a New Yorker staff writer, is repped by UTA, attorney Rick Pappas and publisher Paul Bogaards.