HBO Passed on a ‘Shadow Country’ Adaptation from Scott Cooper, Jeff Bridges, and David Milch

     April 6, 2018


For as many great shows as HBO has given us, there’s also a litany of extremely promising developed projects that never saw that light of day. The Sopranos is possibly the greatest TV show of all time, but HBO also developed and passed on a David Fincher-directed thriller series called Utopia, and a Steve McQueen-directed limited series called Codes of Conduct. Well you can now add a Scott Cooper-directed adaptation of Shadow Country to the list of never-made HBO projects.

Collider’s own Steve Weintraub recently spoke with Cooper in anticipation of the Blu-ray and DVD release of his latest film Hostiles, which will be released on home video April 24th, and during the course of their conversation the Black Mass filmmaker revealed that he developed a promising TV series for HBO that was ultimately scuttled.


Image via Relativity Media

Cooper says he had teamed up with Deadwood creator David Milch and Cooper’s Oscar-winning Crazy Heart star Jeff Bridges to tackle an adaptation of the Peter Matthiessen novel Shadow Country. That epic novel is loosely based on the life of Scottish-American Edgar “Bloody” Watson, a Florida sugar cane planter and alleged outlaw who was killed by his neighbors in 1910.

“I’ve been asked on many occasions to do [a TV series]. The one development in that arena in which I was quite excited was something that was going to reunite Jeff Bridges and me and was being adapted by David Milch, and it was Peter Matthiessen’s opus Shadow Country. And I will say that the writing that Mr. Milch presented me was as masterful as anything I’ve ever read.”

However, the project was cancelled when a new regime at HBO took over:

“This was set up at HBO, and then there was a regime change and the new regime didn’t quite see the merit of what I thought would’ve been one of the great cinematic experiences. But those things happen. So I certainly am interested in that because you can tell a story in a manner in which you can greatly develop characters that sometimes is difficult in a two-hour timeframe, and I think that the right piece will come along yet again. But that was something I was quite excited about that Jeff Bridges and David Milch were as well, and I think it would’ve been quite exceptional.”


Image via Fox Searchlight

Cooper had extremely high praise for Milch’s script, which one hopes might see the light of day at some point:

“It was some of the best writing that I think I’ve ever encountered, and it happened because I was a longtime fan of the novel and Mr. Milch asked me to go to lunch and said that he was a big fan of Out of the Furnace and he thought that he would like to write something for me, and I said well this is it.”

Cooper is currently developing a number of feature film projects, including the Guillermo del Toro-produced Antlers and the MLK assassination drama Hellhound on His Trail, but I can’t help but hope this Shadow Country adaptation could come back around at some point. He’s a very evocative filmmaker, and the prospect of him tackling an outlaw epic set in Florida in the early 20th century is extremely intriguing.