EXCLUSIVE: Deadline hears that Warner Bros. Television is developing a limited series about Buster Keaton that has Oscar and Emmy winner Rami Malek playing the vaudeville-turned-silent comedy movie star.
Matt Reeves’ 6th & Idaho Productions, Malek and David Weddle are producing, and we understand that The Batman director is set to helm. Three-time Emmy winner Ted Cohen (Friends, Succession, Veep) is in negotiations to write and serve as an executive producer on the project. James Curtis’ Buster Keaton: A Filmmaker’s Life is being eyed as the source material for the series, with negotiations underway by the studio to secure the book.
Daniel Pipski and Rafi Crohn from 6th & Idaho are also EPs.
The project is being primed to be shopped to streamers and networks; 6th & Idaho are under an overall deal at Warner Bros, as Deadline first told you. Reeves is also working on his Batman HBO Max spinoff series at Warners, The Penguin, with Colin Farrell reprising his web-handed villain from the movie.
Known for his deadpan expression, actor-director Keaton starred in such movies as The Playhouse, Cops, The Electric House, Sherlock Jr and The General among several others; the latter considered to be his masterpiece.
In The General, an engineer, after being rejected by the Confederate military, not realizing it was due to his crucial civilian role, must single-handedly recapture his beloved locomotive after it is seized by Union spies and return it through enemy lines. Steamboat Bill Jr. is known for being a nail-biting action thriller with a brutal ending that sees Keaton being pulled through a storm, one random catastrophe after another.
Born into a vaudeville family, Keaton’s career waned after his inked with MGM and lost his artistic independence. His wife divorced him, and he became an alcoholic. His career rebounded in the 1940s; he remarried, and earned an Academy Honorary Award in 1959.
Filmmakers including Mel Brooks, Martin Scorsese and Orson Welles were inspired by Keaton, seeing him as an artist who was ahead of his time. Curtis is a renowned biographer of Preston Sturges and W.C. Fields.
Reeves’ The Batman fired up Warner Bros’ return to theatrical last year, grossing close to $771 million worldwide. It was also one of the most-watched movies on HBO Max. Malek won Best Actor at the Oscars for his turn as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, and Lead Actor in a Drama Series at the Emmys for his turn in USA’s Mr. Robot. He starred as the main villain in Daniel Craig’s 007 swan song, No Time to Die, which amassed over $774M worldwide
Malek is repped by WME, Brillstein Entertainment Partners, and Sloane, Offer, Weber & Dern. Cohen is repped by Literate Management, Rohner Walerstein, and UTA. Reeves is repped by CAA, 3 Arts and Jackoway Austen Tyerman Wertheimer Mandelbaum Morris Bernstein Trattner & Klein.
Warner Bros Television provided no comment when reached.