“[Grant Heslov] and I got a call a year and a half or two years ago, and it was from Paramount. They said, ‘Any interest in doing a six-part series on “Catch-22″?’ And we were like, ‘F— no!'” said George Clooney with a grin while discussing the new Hulu limited series based on the classic novel by Joseph Heller. He was joined by Heslov and actors Christopher Abbott and Kyle Chandler for a May 1 screening and Q&A moderated by Dave Karger. Watch Clooney and Heslov above.
Why risk adapting such a classic novel, especially when Mike Nichols already took a stab at it on the big screen in 1970? But obviously Clooney and Heslov changed their minds, and Clooney explained that it was the scripts by Luke Davies (“Lion”) and David Michod (“Animal Kingdom”) that did it: “We read them and we thought, well this is a very different take than the book I remembered … I think, Grant, you and I both just said, ‘Well, now I guess we’re going to do “Catch-22″‘ … It’s not all that often that you read something you can really be excited about.”
The satirical story follows John Yossarian (Abbott), an Air Force pilot trying desperately to get out of service as his bombing runs are repeatedly extended. It would be insane to continue flying missions under the circumstances, but asking to be relieved of duty makes him too sane to be relieved of duty — that’s the bureaucratic quandary that gives “Catch-22” its title.
What made the six-episode treatment so appealing was getting the “time to really develop characters,” Heslov said. War is hell, so characters die, and Clooney added that “if you try to do it in a two-hour movie you don’t really get to know six or seven characters, and so it doesn’t matter when they die.” In this version you’re able to invest enough in the characters that the cost of war, and the cruel irony of the Catch-22 itself, come through more vividly. The entire six-episode series premieres on Hulu on May 17.
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