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HBO Orders Two David Simon Pilots Including Porn Industry Drama Starring James Franco

HBO has ordered two drama pilots from “The Wire” and “Treme” creator David Simon, Variety has learned.

The Deuce,” a period drama about the porn industry in the ’70s and ’80s, has James Franco attached to star and exec produce. Michelle MacLaren (“Breaking Bad”) will direct.

The other pilot is an untitled Capitol Hill project that hails from Simon and journalist Carl Bernstein.

The Deuce,” set in the Times Square demimonde of the 1970s and 1980s, explores the legalization and subsequent rise of the porn industry in New York, looking into the rough-and-tumble world of midtown Manhattan until the rise of HIV, the violence of the cocaine epidemic and the renewed real estate market all ended the bawdy turbulence. The project is partly inspired by the career of twin brothers who were players in the Times Square world and became fronts for mob control of the volatile and lucrative sex industry.

Franco will play both twins, in addition to co-producing the series.

Simon penned the pilot, which will film this October in New York, along with George Pelecanos (“The Wire”,” “Treme”). Richard Price is working on subsequent scripts. The writing trio, plus MacLaren, Franco and Nina K. Noble, will all serve as exec producers. Marc Henry Johnson, who was instrumental in documenting the story, will also produce.

“We’re interested in what it means when profit is the primary metric for what we call society,” Simon commented. “In that sense, this story is intended as neither prurient nor puritan. It’s about a product, and those human beings who created, sold, profited from and suffered with that product.”

Pelecanos added, “With ‘The Deuce,’ I’m pleased to continue a creative collaboration with David Simon and Nina Noble that goes back nearly 15 years, from ‘The Wire’ through ‘Treme.’ Porn, prostitution, pimps, the mob, after-hours nightlife, institutional corruption and New York in its Wild West heyday — it’s a world rich in character, and a fascinating story we’re eager to tell.”

The Capitol Hill pilot is described as a modern-day examination of partisanship and the influence of money on national governance. Noble is attached to the drama, in addition to a creative team including Ed Burns (“The Wire”) and William F. Zorzi (“Show Me a Hero”). Bernstein, who will serve as a co-producer, gained notoriety for his reporting on the Watergate scandal. The project is set to go into production over the next year, after “The Deuce.”

The pilot orders mark HBO’s 17-year relationship with Simon and his Blown Deadline Productions banner. In addition to “The Wire” and “Treme,” Simon co-wrote and produced miniseries “The Corner” and “Generation Kill,” plus “Show Me a Hero,” which debuts Aug. 16.

Following the pickup of both pilots, HBO president Michael Lombardo said, “We are thrilled to continue our longstanding relationship with preeminent producer David Simon, whose keen eye and visceral perspective on today’s socio-economic ills have set him apart from all others. No one else creates with such authenticity, integrity and brilliant realism. We are so fortunate to support David’s efforts and to reap the benefits of his distinctive voice.”

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