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December 11, 2013

True Detective Writer Turns a New Page

Nic Pizzolatto's own journey from writer and undergrad lit teacher to creator of new HBO series True Detective is inspiring.  The 8-part journey stars screen favorites Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey.

Mike Flaherty
  • Nic Pizzolatto

Talk about living the dream.

Not that long ago, Nic Pizzolatto was treading a career path well-worn by those trying to make a living as a fiction writer — selling the occasional short story, teaching lit to undergrads, working on a novel.

His second, considerably more glamorous career began in 2010 when said novel, Galveston, was optioned, and Pizzolatto found himself taking meetings with Hollywood agents. The way for someone like him to make it in show biz, they said, was scriptwriting. So in one month he banged out six scripts, one of which would become the pilot for True Detective, his 8-part policier debuting on HBO January 12. 

How did he manage that prolific output? “I’ll be honest,” Pizzolatto says. “Compared to writing a novel, there’s a lot of white space on those [script] pages. And you never have to worry about how to get someone in and out of a scene or a room — you just cut.”

Within a year, the Louisiana native — who’d been teaching at the University of North Carolina, University of Chicago and DePauw University — moved out to L.A. and signed with Steve Golin’s Anonymous Content.

During a meeting with Golin about penning a remake of a certain feature film, “I said, ‘Frankly, I’m not sure you should remake that,’” he recalls. “‘You should take a look at this.’ And I showed him
True Detective.”

The series’ noirish tale takes Pizzolatto back to the bayou, where two Louisiana state detectives, Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), revisit a serial-killing spree they investigated — and believed they’d solved — 17 years ago.

 “The best of both worlds,” says Pizzolatto of his new calling. “You get this extreme solitude, where it’s just you and the blank page. But then you get to be part of this circus, the ultimate social endeavor.”

And while he sees more prose in his future, he admits, “I think I would be some kind of fool if I stepped off of this wheel before they kicked me off.”

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