Jonathan Franzen's 2001 National Book Award winner and controversial Oprah's Book Club selection seemed perfect for prestige cable: an intergenerational saga with sprawling American themes. After more than a decade of development by high-profile producer Scott Rudin (during which time everyone from Anthony Hopkins and Judi Dench to Brad Pitt was reported to be circling a film adaptation), HBO finally shot a pilot in 2012. Chris Cooper and Dianne Wiest played the parents; Maggie Gyllenhaal and Ewan McGregor played two of the kids. Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) signed on to direct. "We had some great actors and a great production designer, and I was very sorry that their work was ultimately in vain," says Franzen, who co-wrote the script with Baumbach. Franzen declined to comment on the finished pilot, but McGregor was a fan, saying, "I wasn't sure I was ready to do TV because it was such a big commitment, but I just thought it was an extraordinary piece of work. Creatively, I was destroyed. It would have been great to spend four or five months a year for the next four years working on it." However, one rival producer says the series never moved forward for the typical reason: Few at HBO liked the pilot or the difficult development process. The producer claims, "Rudin's relationship with HBO hasn't been the same since."