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Top helmers on ‘Tales’ team… Sky-high Sly price

Directors Oliver Stone, Francis Ford Coppola and Tim Burton are frightfully close to joining forces on a horror anthology series for HBO based on “Weird Tales,” a collection of nearly 2,000 horror short stories written by the likes of H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury and Robert Bloch published in the magazine of that title for three decades beginning in the 1920s.

The rights were pulled together by horror screenwriters Mark Patrick Carducci (“Pumpkinhead”) and Peter Atkins, who wrote three “Hellraiser” sequels. Stone, Coppola, and Burton will act as exec producers and each will direct one of three episodes in a 90-minute pilot. Carducci and Atkins will produce, write the pilot segment to be directed by Stone and oversee the adaptation of “Weird Tales” into a series.

The deals were still being pulled together April 7 by HBO senior vice president of original programming Chris Albrecht, agent Joanne Roberts of Susan Smith Associates, Creative Artists Agency’s Tony Krantz and manager Warren Zide, who’ll be a co-producer of the series. Attempts to scare up comment from them at press time were unsuccessful.

Anthologies are fast becoming a TV staple again. “Tales From the Crypt” is in its sixth season, with exec producers Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis, David Giler, Walter Hill and Richard Donner, and HBO is developing “Fear Itself,” a series about phobias by “Cliffhanger” director Renny Harlin, “Lethal Weapon” writer Shane Black and Michael De Luca, part-time screenwriter and full-time president of production at New Line. Showtime’s revived “The Outer Limits” and continues “Zalman King’s Red Shoe Diaries,” while NBC’s getting into the act with a series called “The Book.”

“Weird Tales” aims to be a sophisticated take on horror for the adult market, and since the producers have working relationships with Clive Barker and Frank Darabont, they’re among a list of creatives being haunted to adapt and direct future episodes.

In “Weird Tales,” HBO is getting the granddaddy of anthology source material. The stories helped shape the creation of early TV anthologies like “The Twilight Zone.” The acquisition of the rights is a weird tale in itself. Carducci read the stories years ago and came across a book anthologist who, he was surprised to find, controlled the rights. Nobody had really pursued them.

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