When Nic Pizzolatto was 5, he had an epiphany. It wasn’t the usual childhood one about finger-painting or bike-riding or other regular kid stuff. It was that one day he would die.
“You know how people say that young people feel immortal? I don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said. “I was planning for how I would deal with my death in good conscience well before I even hit puberty.”
The moment captures Pizzolatto, one of the more colorful creative types to emerge in Hollywood in recent years and the force behind HBO’s “True Detective,” the Louisiana-set, time-jumping Matthew McConaughey-Woody Harrelson noir series that premieres Sunday. Though a first-time creator, Pizzolatto wrote all eight episodes of the anthology series and served as the series’ sole show runner.
Articulate, confident and a little death-obsessed, the 38-year-old former novelist brings with him a brashness that defies the schleppy image of the young TV writer and matches the profession’s more swashbuckling character – a personality that blends the obsessiveness of an Aaron Sorkin with the lyricism of a David Milch. It also features a level of self-mythology that involves, as he tells it, yanking his own novel shortly before publication, a seat-of-his-pants decision to leave academia for Hollywood and a childhood that matches the brooding poetry of his new show.
Never miss a local story.
“Detective” is earning strong advance buzz for its rich characters and philosophical underpinnings. One of several scripts Pizzolatto wrote simply to get in the game, “True Detective” sparked a bidding war when it first was circulated in Hollywood and had executives salivating when he made his full pitch.
He penned it, he said, because the set-up allowed him to explore his preoccupations. “To achieve a personal vision that deeply investigates character, it makes sense to choose as a delivery vehicle a genre where an investigation is already under way,” he said.
“You can probably tell I don’t give a … about serial killers, and I certainly don’t care to engage in some sort of creative cultural competition for who can invent the most disgusting kind of serial killer,” he said. “This is just a vehicle. You could have engaged the same obsessions in a doughnut shop, but the show probably wouldn’t have sold.”