In terms of scale, Tom Hooper may never top his recent feat of directing the nine-hour HBO mini-series John Adams.

The historical epic shot for 110 days on a budget of $110m, with more than 200 speaking parts. 'It's like my Lord Of The Rings, except I don't have to do CGI armies of orks,' laughs Hooper.

The seven-part series has received a whopping 23 Emmy nominations, including one for Hooper as best director for a mini-series, movie or dramatic special. Starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney and executive produced by Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman's Playtone, John Adams aired in the US in March and should come to UK television later this year.

Hooper began in short films, theatre and commercials before moving to television, where he worked on the TV series Cold Feet. Recent TV projects include award-winning Longford, Prime Suspect and Elizabeth I, and his first feature, 2004's Red Dust starring Hilary Swank and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

The life-changing call from Hanks and Goetzman to helm John Adams was something of an honour. 'It was a lost treasure,' Hooper says of the story of revolutionary and second US president Adams. 'Film-makers had covered the (US) Civil War much more than the Revolutionary War.' He worked on the project for 15 months from start to finish.

Hooper then turned his attention to a story much closer to home, with another much-coveted job. He finished principal photography in July for The Damned United, the story of famed 1970s football manager Brian Clough, and his struggles after moving to English champions Leeds United.

Hooper did not see it as intimidating that Stephen Frears was going to direct the project initially. 'It was a first draft at that stage, so I don't feel like I've inherited his script. The fact he was interested has given me additional confidence in the material,' he says.

The project is backed by BBC Films and Screen Yorkshire with Sony Pictures Entertainment pre-buying world rights. One of the producers is Andy Harries, who nurtured Hooper's career during his Cold Feet days and now produces through his own company Left Bank.

The script, based on David Peace's novelisation of Clough's story, is adapted by Peter Morgan, with whom Hooper worked on Longford.

Hooper thinks it could appeal to audiences who have not heard of English football's beloved 'Cloughy'. 'It's not really a film about sport, its more a film about man's pursuit of power and emotional and professional jealousy,' Hooper explains.

Michael Sheen, Bafta-nominated for playing prime minister Tony Blair in The Queen and about to cause a stir again in Ron Howard's Frost/Nixon, 'has the role of his life' playing Clough, says Hooper. The cast also features Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney and Jim Broadbent.

Next up is another complicated true-life story, as Hooper hopes to direct Joan Didion's screenplay about The Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham. Hooper says: 'It's emblematic for me to mine the real for storytelling.'