The pay cabler has commissioned multiple scripts with an eye toward a straight-to-series order if the scripts are well-received. The project based on the 1967 Sidney Poitier-Rod Steiger pic is described as an exploration of character and race set in modern-day Mississippi. Taylor is a native son of the Magnolia state, and he’s known for his touch with material set in the South as the filmmaker behind “The Help” and this year’s James Brown biopic “Get On Up.”
Taylor is writing at least two scripts for Showtime and will direct should the project go before the cameras. Taylor and Littlefield are exec producing with John Norris. Littlefield Co.’s Ann Johnson is on board as a producer.
Project keeps Littlefield in business with the Lion, on the heels of bringing “Fargo” to FX as a miniseries this year, with a second installment due next year.
“Heat of the Night” development pact further’s MGM’s goal of mining its vault for IP with brand-name appeal. Broadcast and cable nets are awash in vintage film and TV reboots this development cycle. But “Heat of the Night” stands a little taller than most as the original pic, helmed by Norman Jewison, was a landmark film of the civil rights era.
Poitier played a police detective sent to investigate a murder in a small Southern town in the face of hostility from the local sheriff, played by Steiger. It nabbed five Oscars, including best picture and best actor for Steiger. There’s no word yet on exactly how Taylor will interpret the story for the present day, but there’s no doubt that the subject matter remains relevant. (Exhibit A: Ferguson, Mo. this summer)
Littlefield has history with “Heat of the Night.” During his long run as an NBC programming exec, he developed an earlier series rendition of the pic that starred Carroll O’Connor and Howard E. Rollins Jr. That version of “Heat of the Night” ran four seasons on NBC starting in 1988 and another four on CBS.