HBO has made a deal to bring David Chase, the creator of its biggest hit, “The Sopranos,” back to television.
The network announced on Monday that Mr. Chase would write and produce an ambitious mini-series that would dramatize the history of Hollywood moviemaking, from the early days of the 20th century to the present day.
The series, “Ribbon of Dreams,” will begin with the behind-the-scenes roles played by two fictional characters — one a cowboy with some violence in his past, the other a mechanical engineer — who work for the famous early film director D. W. Griffith. It will follow them and their professional heirs through the development of the movie business.
The project is expected to cover each period of Hollywood movies, beginning with silent westerns and comedies, through the golden era of the studio system, to the emergence of auteur film directors in the 1970s, and up to the current mix of studio blockbusters and independent films. The cast of characters will also include many of the biggest names of Hollywood’s past, including John Wayne and Bette Davis.
The title refers to a quotation from Orson Welles: “A film is a ribbon of dreams.”
The return of Mr. Chase represents a coup for HBO, which has been courting him to develop new projects for television.
At the end of “The Sopranos,” Mr. Chase had indicated that he was turning his attention to the movies and one particular film project, which he said he would write and direct (but would not describe).
“We couldn’t be more excited to be back in business with the master,” said Richard Plepler, an HBO co-president.
An executive who has worked with Mr. Chase on previous television projects said Mr. Chase had been researching the idea for about two years, unsure what form it would take.
After meeting with his longtime producing partner, Brad Grey, who is now the chairman of the Paramount Pictures film studio, the two men decided it would work best as a mini-series and pitched the idea of the Hollywood epic to HBO.
Mr. Grey will again serve as executive producer on this project, an arrangement he maintained on “The Sopranos” even after he was named chief executive of Paramount. Mr. Chase and Mr. Grey declined to be interviewed. At the time, Mr. Grey said of “The Sopranos” and his personal involvement: “For the people on this show this has been the greatest creative experience of everyone’s life.”
HBO has released no details on the expected length of the mini-series, nor when it might be put into production. But in the past HBO has altered its schedule to move up projects that it deemed most ready and most worthy.
If Mr. Chase turned in a script by late this year, the network, in theory, could begin shooting the series in early 2010. But Mr. Chase will be directing his film project for Paramount first.
Previous HBO mini-series have been as long as 12 hours (“From the Earth to the Moon” in 1998), while its most recent, “John Adams,” ran for seven hours. The network has given Mr. Chase enormous leeway in the past, allowing him as much time as he needed for seasons of “The Sopranos.”
He will most likely be allowed all the time he wants to develop his Hollywood story. And, as it did when it kept adding seasons of “The Sopranos,” HBO would most likely have no problem if he decided he needed more than one season to complete the epic.