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Doc Holliday series to HBO

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DOC HOLLIDAY
Everett Collection

In the mythology of the O.K. Corral, the hero is typically the straightlaced Wyatt Earp and the scene-stealing sidekick his sauced but steady-handed gunslinger, Doc Holliday. Henry Fonda had Victor Mature, Burt Lancaster had Kirk Douglas, and Kurt Russell had Val Kilmer. Rarely has Doc gotten the star treatment — though 1971’s Doc, with Stacy Keach and Faye Dunaway, came the closest to doing him justice. EW can now confirm that HBO is working with Akiva Goldsman on a new series about the 19th-century’s most famous failed dentist. As Deadline initially reported, Ron Howard is attached to direct, and Adam Cooper and Bill Collage (Accepted) are writing, inspired by the recent biography from Mary Doria Russell, also entitled Doc.

Though Kilmer’s performance in Tombstone might be the most vivid of Hollidays, in hindsight his character seems a little out of place with that film’s penchant for flamboyant Technicolor duds and male eyeliner. In fact, Dennis Quaid’s leaner, grittier Doc from the otherwise forgettable Wyatt Earp, opposite Kevin Costner, might be a better model for HBO’s vision of the dentist/gambler/killer, who died at 36 from tuberculosis. Creating a murky, bloody, morally-ambiguous world around a man of Doc’s calculating character has great promise for anyone who still has cravings for Deadwood.

But who should wear the black hat? My immediate thought was Billy Crudup, the intense and angular actor best known as Russell Hammond in Almost Famous. Likable, seductive, malicious — Crudup can roll all three in the same smile. There’s even a bit of a resemblance to boot.

Does a Doc Holliday cable series seem like the perfect gift to disappointed Deadwood fans? Is Crudup on your short list of potential Docs? If not, who is?

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