'Blue Valentine' Director's HBO Show Is Based On Bodybuilding Memoir 'Muscle'

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Late last year, during his battle with the MPAA, Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance said that he is developing an HBO series that would hopefully "give new meaning to the word 'character development'." Given the intensely emotional angle of Blue Valentine, that cryptic statement was taken in exactly the misdirecting manner I suspect the director intended.

Now we know a little more. His HBO series is based upon the Sam Fussell memoir Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder, and will be a single-camera comedy.

Deadline says that Derek Cianfrance will co-write the script with the original author, and that Mr. Cianfrance is attached to direct the first episode. Both men will produce.

A review printed by Amazon sums up the book:

Teenage boys who a generation ago would have answered Charles Atlas ads will be attracted to this book about Fussell's own immersion program in bodybuilding. He is an Oxford honors graduate in English language and literature and writes engagingly about what drew him into the subculture of gym life. He includes the reaction of his bewildered parents and describes the assortment of gym habitues who befriended him. This is no George Plimpton inside glimpse–the author lived the bodybuilding life full-time for four years, and he shares with his readers that life of mind-numbing exercises, fistfuls of vitamins, and steroid injections. This is destined to be a cult book that will survive because of its humor, its truth, and its fine writing.

Look also to a 1991 EW profile of the author to get some insight on how this might work as a show:

In Muscle, Fussell describes his journey into the inner circles of the gym world — the barf-fests, starvation diets, and grueling workouts — in terms worthy of Dante's Inferno. He also touches on some risky subjects in American sports, including homosexuality and steroid use. But most of all Fussell, who used the chemicals himself in his obsessive quest to become ”the best,” attempts to describe the bodybuilder's warped outlook as a metaphor for ”the hidden motivations that we all have. Life is a matter of theater and presentation and how much you choose to expose to the world of yourself,” he says.

Taking all this in I automatically think of the good and underexposed documentary Bigger Stronger Faster, in addition to the obvious go-to films like Pumping Iron. There's potential here, definitely, and I'll be curious to see how the show manages to portray the main character's physical changes, assuming it gets that far.