Network to develop series from Coppola film

AMC is looking to develop a series version of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 feature “The Conversation.”

Producer Tony Krantz, who has attempted to turn “The Conversation” into a TV vehicle for more than a decade, has retained scribes Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”) and Erik Jendresen (“Band of Brothers”) to pen a new script.

The TV project will be set in the early 1970s — emulating the time period of the original thriller — and center on electronic surveillance expert Harry Caul, played in the film by Gene Hackman.

“It gives us an opportunity to look back at the 1970s through the filter of 2009,” Krantz said. “The issues of privacy and individuality, and issues of spying and listening, are as relevant now as they’ve ever been. This is the perfect vehicle to tell those stories.”

Krantz’s Flame Ventures shingle is attached, along with Sony Pictures TV and Coppola’s American Zoetrope label.

Krantz, McQuarrie and Jendresen previously worked on a modern-day version of “The Conversation” two years ago at ABC — but Krantz said the project ultimately didn’t mesh with the Alphabet web’s more femme-focused drama slate and struggled with incorporating modern technologies that made some of the movie’s storytelling obsolete.

Before that, Krantz attempted to develop the show at two other places — and as an agent in 1995, he sold a version penned by Ron Bass (and starring Kyle MacLachlan) to NBC.

“It’s such a sophisticated movie,” Krantz said. “The idea of interpretation and the idea that perception is everything I thought was fascinating and an incredibly rich subject for a series. I feel if we keep trying and trying, hopefully we’ll get it right.”

For AMC, project fits squarely with its strategy of developing featurelike series. Cabler could even conceivably air the original feature before the series bow.

The “Conversation” series will contain close-ended stories, as Harry Caul goes about his job as an eavesdropper, coupled with a larger, ongoing storyline about who’s monitoring him as he hears conversations he shouldn’t be privy to.

Show will also delve into issues of media manipulation, Jendresen said.

“Watching ‘The Conversation’ today is fascinating in light of the Patriot Act,” Jendresen said. “But this is not a series that’s blatantly making a statement; it will still be very true to the original vision of the character.”

McQuarrie and Jendresen are at work crafting the script. They’ll exec produce with Krantz and Heather McQuarrie; it’s unclear what credit Coppola — who shot “The Conversation” in between “The Godfather” and its sequel — will take.

Krantz’s recent credits include MTV’s “Kaya.” He’s also exec produced series such as “24″ and “Sports Night” (as former head of Imagine TV). Besides “The Usual Suspects,” McQuarrie’s credits include “X-Men” and the upcoming “Valkyrie.” Jendresen earned an Emmy for “Band of Brothers.”

Coppola’s “The Conversation” earned three Oscar nominations in 1975, including for best picture.

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