William Faulkner/Portrait by Carl Van Vechten/Library of Congress
Emmy Award-winning producer David Milch has renewed his contract with HBO, extending his eight-year career at the cable television network. As part of his plans for the immediate future, Milch will be concentrating heavily on the canon of William Faulkner.
Milch’s production company, Red Board Productions, worked out a deal with the estate of William Faulkner, which, throughout the course of Milch’s multiyear contract, will allow him to choose from all nineteen of Faulkner’s novels and 125 short stories, excepting those works that are currently under option elsewhere (more on that later). Lee Caplin, executor of the William Faulkner Literary Estate and CEO of Picture Entertainment Corp, will partner with Milch to decide which works to bring to screen.
Milch’s run at HBO has seen, thus far, varying levels of success. His first work for the network, historical drama “Deadwood,” ran for three twelve-episode seasons and won multiple Emmys as well as a Golden Globe. Next up for Milch was “John from Cincinnati,” a drama centered around the mysterious John Monad, new to the surf community of Imperial Beach, California. Viewership was slow-growing, and in spite of its season finale three-million-strong viewership, it was canceled immediately after. Next up is “Luck,” a horse racing drama starring Dustin Hoffman, which is scheduled to launch in January. History, surfing, horse racing – and police procedural, lest we forget. Milch was co-creator of the wildly successful, twelve season-running “NYPD Blue.”
Milch has never been one to turn down an ambitious undertaking, which may be that which makes him the prime candidate to take on the work of Pulitzer Prize- and Nobel Prize-winning Faulkner. Previous adaptations of Faulkner’s work haven’t left much of an impression -- though Steve McQueen impressed the Academy in 1969’s “The Reivers,” based on the novel by Faulkner. Milch’s work is cut out for him. We imagine, though, that James Franco’s plans to adapt and direct As I Lay Dying for the big screen might be a thorn in Milch’s side. Is a fight for ownership imminent? Or perhaps a race to the finish line? Or will Milch focus on the author’s other works? Time will tell – and time will also thankfully bring Faulkner back to cinematic life.