When Dick Hickock and Perry Smith brutally murdered the upstanding Clutter family during a robbery on November 15, 1959, they could never have foreseen how that crime would ricochet through generations of pop culture. They could not have imagined that Truman Capote’s novelistic account of the crimes—a non-fiction novel, as it were, adapted from serialized reports on the crime published in The New Yorker—would become a touchstone for new journalism and the apex of a career that began its long, harsh downslide in the afterglow of In Cold Blood’s historic success.
After years on death row, Hickock and Smith were hanged in 1965, one year before the release of Capote’s In Cold Blood and two years before the release of Richard Brooks’ stark, black-and-white, brutally powerful film adaptation of Capote’s book. The fascination did not end there. In 1996, Jonathan Kaplan helmed a television miniseries featuring A Talking Cat!?! star Eric Roberts, plus Sam Neil and Anthony Edwards, neither of whom appeared in A Talking Cat!?!
One might imagine that these projects would satiate the culture’s appetite for watching movies based on an admittedly fascinating case and groundbreaking book. But you would be wrong. This past decade, we’ve witnessed not one but two movies about the making of In Cold Blood: 2005’s Capote, which won Philip Seymour Hoffman his sole Academy Award, and 2006’s Infamous, which made Toby Jones’ name, Stateside at least, with his fine performance as the tragic, ebullient raconteur and ultimately very sad man.
At this point you’re probably thinking, “Why don’t they make a movie, TV show, or television mini-series about the murders that inspired In Cold Blood?” which proves that you have a very short attention span or began reading this post at this paragraph. Well, you are in luck, theoretical person whose appetite for seeing the Clutter murders dramatized is apparently limitless.
According to Deadline, The Weinstein Company has just picked up the rights to Capote’s controversial bestseller with the intention of turning it into a “TV event series,” presumably like True Detective or Fargo, which straddle the line between television and film and have generated all kinds of chatter.
Gary Oldman and Douglas Urbanski’s Flying Studios will produce a script that Becoming Jane screenwriter Kevin Hood is on board to write. It’s unclear what the scope of the series will be, whether it will focus on the Clutters or the killers, or on Capote himself, who traveled to Kansas with good friend Harper Lee to report on the killings. But if it does choose to center on Capote, chances are good whoever plays him has at least an Emmy nomination looming in his future. It’s a heckuva good role, albeit one with a distinguished legacy it would be hard to measure up to.