EXCLUSIVE: Oscar winner Akiva Goldsman has signed a two-year exclusive overall deal with HBO. The first project under the pact is an untitled Western drama about Doc Holliday, the famed gambler and gunslinger of the Old West. Feature scribes Adam Cooper and Bill Collage (Accepted) will write the script and will executive produce with Goldsman and his producing partner Kerry Foster. Ron Howard is attached to direct the potential pilot. His father, Rance Howard, will serve as co-producer along with his wife Judy Howard. The project is inspired by Mary Doria Russell’s critically praised novel Doc, which was published in May. Doc Holliday is often portrayed as an ailing sidekick (he died from tuberculosis at age 36), best known for his friendship with Wyatt Earp and his involvement in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (Val Kilmer portrayed him in the movie Tombstone). But the HBO project aims to put Holliday front and center as the series protagonist, an educated Southern gentleman and dentist by trade, thrust into the cruel and violent world of the Old West in order to salvage his ailing health. The series will feature the never-before-explored love triangle between Holliday, his prostitute wife, Kate Elder and best friend, Wyatt Earp — all set against the lawlessness and desperation of a rapidly changing society.

Goldsman describes the project as “all in the family” when it comes to auspices. His partner at Weed Road Foster came upon the source material. Goldsman mentioned the idea to frequent collaborator Ron Howard while the two were discussing their latest project, The Dark Tower. Howard is set to direct and Goldsman is writing the adaptation of the Stephen King’s book series, which is looking for a home as a feature trilogy and an accompanying limited TV series after being put in turnaround by NBCUniversal. Goldsman, who quipped that he is following the rule “work with Ron whenever possible” after his first collaboration with the director, A Beautiful Mind, earned him a writing Oscar, also penned the Howard-directed The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons and Cinderella Man. Howard expressed interest in the Western TV project, and it turned out that his father, veteran actor Rance Howard, has a fascination with Doc Holliday. So Rance Howard and his wife came on board as co-producers and Ron Howard became attached as director of the potential pilot. (Howard, whose company with Brian Grazer Imagine is very active in TV, has not directed a TV pilot yet.) Meanwhile, Foster’s husband, Adam Cooper, and his writing partner, Bill Collage, came on board to write the Western. Originally, the project was eyed as a mini-series and was pitched as such to HBO. The pay cable network suggested turning it into a series instead. (more…)