Robert Downey Jr., Nic Pizzolatto Eyeing TV Project at HBO (EXCLUSIVE)

Robert Downy Jr Nic Pizzolatto
Richard Young/Dave Allocca/Starpix/REX/Shutterstock

HBO is looking to expand its relationship with one of its proven hit-makers by teaming him up with one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

Nic Pizzolatto and Robert Downey Jr. are in talks for a drama project, with the “True Detective” creator attached to write and the “Iron Man” actor attached to star, sources tell Variety.

HBO and reps for both Pizzolatto and Downey Jr. declined to comment.

Plot details are scarce, but insiders say the project is based on Downey Jr.’s “Perry Mason” reboot, which he had been developing as a feature film at Warner Bros. for several years. Pizzolatto, Joe Horacek, Downey Jr., and his producing partner and wife, Susan Downey, of Team Downey will serve as exec producers.

Sources indicate the project will be a series, rather than a TV film, and that the project has been gestating at HBO since as early as May.

This project would mark Downey Jr.’s first starring role on television, aside from his “Ally McBeal” stint in the early 2000’s, before he re-surged to became a box-office superstar.

Downey Jr. has wanted to do some sort of “Perry Mason” project for some time, having originally set it up at Warner Bros. as a film back in 2011. The film never found its footing and after his other lawyer-driven pic “The Judge” had mixed results at the box office, the studio and Team Downey thought that television was a better platform for it. “Perry Mason,” starring Raymond Burr, ran on CBS from 1957 to 1966.

With a third season of “True Detective” still in flux, this potential series keeps Pizzolatto in the HBO fold with a new high-profile project, given his recent overall deal with the premium cabler, which lasts through 2018.

For Downey Jr., the project not only marks his big foray into TV on the screen, but also as a TV producer. The “Iron Man” star put a drama into development with Showtime in 2014, though it never come to fruition.

Both Downey Jr. and Pizzolatto are repped by CAA. Pizzolatto is also repped by Anonymous Content.

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  1. Janet D. B. McCrosky says:

    Please check your grammar, Variety, Wow! Your verb tense is incorrect in several places. Push F7 or just proof read before publishing. Otherwise very informative.
    I think Bull is filling this niche, now.

  2. The demographic and composition of the HBO audience doesn’t match Erle Stanley Gardner’s conception of his OWN characters — or the mindset of that demographic.

    Gardner was so conservative, that Della Street wasn’t even able to remove her shoe — after a foot chase, in an episode — because, as he told the cast and writers — “Della would never do that.”

    Downey obviously has the rights to do whatever he wants to do — but whatever he creates, will bear no resemblance to the “Perry Mason” characters, or the concept that Erle Stanley Gardner — himself — created.

    CBS tried this — in 1966 — with the ill-advised, “Adventures of Perry Mason” — with Monte Markham, Sharon Acker, Harry Guardino, and Dane Clark — which was an embarrassing failure.

    The late Raymond Burr’s powerful performance as “Perry Mason” stands as the definitive work — superceding the productions with Warren William, Ricardo Cortez, and Donald Woods — in the bizarre,Warner Brothers films, of the 1930’s — and John Larkin — in the CBS Radio drama, of the 1940’s and early 1950’s.

    I wish Downey success, but, the defense, it seems to me, has already rested.

    (Downey, of course, brilliantly portrayed Charlie Chaplin, on film, and, it was at the Charlie Chaplin studios — at Sunset and La Brea — where the final years of the original “Perry Mason” CBS-TV series — were shot.)

  3. Mr Furious says:

    I wonder what movies and TV shows Nick Stealsalotto will rip-off for this one.

  4. Derek117 says:

    I’m excited to see the return of Perry Mason in a limited TV series! The character is iconic because of the excellent Raymond Burr series, that ran forever–and lives on, courtesy of DVDs. And Robert Downey Jr. is such an excellent actor, and given what he’s done with Sherlock Holmes (much better than Benedict Cumberbatch, IMO) I can’t wait to see his take on Mr. Mason.

    The challenge will be in finding a good supporting cast: Delia Street…Paul Drake…Lt Tragg…DA Hamilton Burger. Mis-casting of any of these key players could be fatal to the re-boot. Speaking of which…

    The choice of Nic Pizzolatto to write this limited series could prove to be a bigger mistake than Season 2 of “True Detective.” But, my guess is HBO is hoping that by entrusting Pizzolatto with such an important project, that his creativity juices will respond and produce a quality show. I have to say, I’m NOT optimistic that he can rise to the occasion. We’ll see.

  5. jedi77 says:

    Sounds like a sure hit for HBO. I am watching if Downey is in it.
    Have serious doubts as to whether Pizzolatto can hit lightening twice.

  6. Bob says:

    “For Downey Jr., the project not only marks his big foray into TV on the screen”

    Er, what? He joined Ally McBeal in the 4th season, which not only led to a boost in sagging ratings but he won a Golden Globe for it.

    So he clearly made his “big foray” into TV already. But his career was then sidelined again due to his drug use and arrests.

    (And that’s ignoring his full season on SNL in the ’80s.)

  7. Nicholson says:

    Wow – the marquee movie names coming to TV continue…I would watch the heck out of any project Downey is in.

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