EXCLUSIVE: Deadline hears Warner Bros. Television is developing a limited series on Buster Keaton, starring Oscar- and Emmy-winner Rami Malek as the vaudeville-turned-silent-movie star.
Matt Reeves’ 6th & Idaho Productions, Malek and David Weddle are producing, and we know the Batman director will be at the helm. Three-time Emmy-winner Ted Cohen (Friends, Succession, Veep) is in negotiations to write and serve as executive producer on the project. Buster Keaton: A Filmmaker’s Life by James Curtis is being considered as source material for the series while the studio is in talks to secure the book.
6th & Idaho’s Daniel Pipski and Rafi Crohn are also EPs.
The project is being prepared to be sold to streamers and networks; 6th & Idaho have 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 villain from the film.
Known for his deadpan expression, actor-director Keaton has starred in films including The Playhouse, Cops, The Electric House, Sherlock Jr and The General; The latter is considered his masterpiece.
In The General, after being rejected by the Confederate military without knowing it was because of his crucial civilian role, an engineer must recapture his beloved locomotive after it was seized by Union spies and get it back through enemy lines. Steamboat Bill Jr. is known for being a suspenseful action thriller with a brutal ending that sees Keaton dragged through a storm, one random disaster after another.
Born into a vaudeville family, Keaton’s career dwindled after being inked with MGM and losing his artistic independence. His wife divorced him and he became an alcoholic. His career recovered in the 1940s; He remarried and received an honorary award from the Academy in 1959.
Filmmakers such as Mel Brooks, Martin Scorsese and Orson Welles drew inspiration from Keaton and saw him as an artist ahead of his time. Curtis is a renowned biographer of Preston Sturges and WC Fields.
Reeves’ The Batman fueled Warner Bros.’ return to cinema last year and grossed nearly $771 million worldwide. It was also one of the most-watched films on HBO Max. Malek won Best Actor at the Oscars for his role as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and Lead Actor in a Drama Series at the Emmys for his role in “Mr. Robot” from the USA. He starred as the main villain in Daniel Craig’s 007 swan song No Time to Die, which grossed over $774 million worldwide
Malek is represented by WME, Brillstein Entertainment Partners and Sloane, Offer, Weber & Dern. Cohen is represented by Literate Management, Rohner Walerstein and UTA. Reeves is represented by CAA, 3 Arts and Jackoway Austen Tyerman Wertheimer Mandelbaum Morris Bernstein Trattner & Klein.
Warner Bros Television had no comment when reached.