By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com January 24, 2012 at 9:32AM
We're reaching something of a watershed moment when it comes to the divide between TV and film. While the likes of "The Sopranos" and "The Wire" have seen the small screen gain more and more prestige over the last decade, and names like Martin Scorsese and Michael Mann have lent their names to projects, the big directors tend to helm the pilot, take an executive producer credit and move on, while the shows tend to be lead either by rising, relatively unknown stars (see Michael Pitt, Jon Hamm, Aaron Paul) or veteran character actors eager for a more substantial role (see James Gandolfini, Steve Buscemi, Peter Dinklage). Dustin Hoffman is probably the biggest name to head to TV to date, as the star of Mann's HBO show "Luck" which starts on Sunday, but while he's enormously respected, he's hardly an A-lister anymore -- he's not led a bona-fide hit himself since 1995's "Outbreak."
But the times, they are a changing, and Deadline report that a solid gold A-lister, Ben Stiller, a man with multiple recent smashes to his name, has signed on to star, direct and produce an HBO pilot. The site report that the show, entitled "All Talk," is penned by novelist Jonathan Safran Foer ("Everything Is Illuminated," "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"), focuses on a Jewish family in Washington D.C, and will be "politically, religously, culturally, intellectually and sexually irreverent."
Stiller is not the only actor on board. Alan Alda will co-star, giving us hope that the show will actually be a small-screen spin-off of David O Russell's "Flirting With Disaster." Or fear that it's a continuation of "Tower Heist." Meanwhile, bigwig Scott Rudin, who has a number of other shows at the network, including Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom, the equally-starry "The Corrections" from Noah Baumbach, and the recently announced "Indie Game," is producing, alongside his director of development Eli Bush, Stiller and Foer.
Stiller's presence in the show is a big deal. His next couple of movies are big studio comedies, and it really says something about the reputation that HBO have established that he'd be prepared to headline a series. It's possible that he's only on board for the pilot -- maybe his role is smaller than indicated, or he'll be written out/killed off early on -- but on the surface, it seems that Stiller is prepared to give up several months of his schedule every year for the foreseeable future to a TV show, and it's unlikely to hurt his star credit in the slightest. Has a new precedent been set? Either way, it all looks promising (providing Foer's able to avoid hijacking some kind of global tragedy in the name of pathos, as has been his wont in the past). Filming will take place in the fall, once Stiller has wrapped on his next cinematic directorial/starring effort, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"