By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com January 20, 2012 at 9:22AM
Nothing demonstrates the status of HBO these days better than "The Corrections." Jonathan Franzen's novel was hugely acclaimed on publication in 2001, later landing atop many of the "best of the decade" literary lists, and was soon snapped up for a film version by Scott Rudin, one of the most important producers in Hollywood, and the man behind some of the most acclaimed novel-to-film translations of the last decade, from "Wonder Boys" to "No Country For Old Men."
Rudin selected the team behind his Oscar-nominated film "The Hours," writer David Hare and director Stephen Daldry, for the project back in 2002. Daldry stepped off a few years later, with Robert Zemeckis replacing him as director, but the film never came to pass. Instead, the adaptation found new life moving ahead as an HBO series, with writer-director Noah Baumbach ("The Squid and the Whale," "Greenberg") at the helm, and a cast full of A-listers and Oscar-winners forming. Not only that, Frazen has co-written the pilot with Baumbach, in addition to co-writing every single episode of the first season and is an executive producer of the series.
Chris Cooper and Dianne Wiest were the first on board, as Alfred and Enid Lambert, the parents of a dysfunctional Midwestern family, while Ewan McGregor signed on not long after to play their middle son Chip, a disgraced socialist professor. And now a few more big names look to be coming aboard, as Baz Bamgiboye reports that Maggie Gyllenhaal and Rhys Ifans are both in early talks to join the project. Gyllenaal, would play Denise, the Lamberts' youngest daughter, a bisexual Philadelphia chef, while Ifans would play, in what's described as a cameo, a Lithuanian gangster who draws McGregor's character into his world.
Update: Deadline reports that Greta Gerwig and Bruce Norris are also coming on board. Gerwig will play Chip's soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend and a film producer, while Norris will play the older brother Gary, a successful yet depressed banker with a drinking problem.
While it's been known for a while that Baumbach would be writing and directing the pilot for the network, it's been unclear what the game plan beyond that would be. A five-part mini-series like "Mildred Pierce?" Or something more open-ended, like "The Sopranos?" For the first time, it's starting to crystallize. According to Bamigboye, should the two-hour pilot impress HBO executives (something that seems all but a certainty, given the pedigree involved), the intention is for there to be four seasons of ten episodes each, a far longer run than we'd realistically guessed.
And it does give us a little pause. Can a forty-hour take on a 550 page book feel anything but languid and padded-out? We're assuming the intention is to depart from the source material, but it does feel like an awful lot of time. Then again, with a cast like this, it could be the equivalent of twenty new Noah Baumbach movies over four years, and we're not sure we'd complain too much about that prospect.