FJ Gets Taken To School

Yesterday, as part of the “Short Bits”, I mentioned Oscar winning screenwriter Bill Condon of Gods and Monsters fame had been hired on to do a rewrite… oh, hell, I’ll just reprint what I said:

  • Bill Condon, who recently was offered $700,000 by Robert DeNiro’s company to do an adaptation of a Vanity Fair article, is on board to help whip the film version of the Bob Fosse musical Chicago into shape. I personally feel this is wrong. As good a writer as Condon may be, him rewriting Larry Gelbart is just wrong.

Well, I received an email from a friend of Condon’s, who brought me up to speed on the state of the project:

Hey Edward,

A friend of mine called my attention to your piece today on Bill vis a vis Chicago. Just wanted to let you know briefly the history of the script, at least as regards the last three writers to work on it. The movie version of this musical has been famously languishing in development for somewhere between ten and fifteen years. A whole host of writers, directors and stars have come and gone in that time. The term “development Hell” may have, in fact, been coined to describe the notorious history of trying to work this musical into a movie that Miramax would be willing to spend 30-40 million dollars to make.

I’m not intimately familiar with the specifics, but I do know that Larry Gelbart was hired years ago, and wrote a script without a director attached. My understanding is that his script was more or less a straight period crime piece, which none of the powers that be were interested in. Wendy Wasserstein, of The Heidi Chronicles fame, was actually hired after him. I don’t know if she was hired to re-write him, or if she pitched her own take on the material.

Within the last year and a half, Marty Richards ( the producer who owns and controls the musical) and Harvey Weinstein saw the acclaimed revival of Cabaret on Broadway. It was directed by two men. One was the British wunderkind Sam Mendes. Producers Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks actually hired Mendes to direct American Beauty after seeing this production. The other director, and choreographer of the entire staging, was Rob Marshall. Disney hired him to direct their new Annie for ABC, which showed to great critical acclaim and ratings success. Richards and Weinstein then hired Rob to direct Chicago. Bill was approached shortly thereafter, and asked to conceive from the ground up a movie based on the musical.

He pitched his conception to Marshall, Richards and Weinstein. They were all very enthusiastic, and he was hired. He completed a first draft, which was very well received, and then a minor revision. Based on that revised script, the movie was finally greenlit. Pre-production has begun in Manhattan. Rehearsal space has been booked. Rob Marshall has been casting and scouting locations. I think all concerned are hoping to start shooting sometime in the fourth quarter.

And that’s it. Just wanted to let you know that the script has, in fact, been finished and that the movie is getting made.

(Editor’s note: I did some slight rewriting of the email for clarification purposes only.)

This, IMHO, is damn good news. While I have given Harvey Weinstein some sarcastic flack on these pages, I do hold him, his brother Bob and the entire Miramax family in high esteem. My own personal hopes are that Chicago is a big success, which will lead a new wave of musical cinema, starting with Rent.

As for Bill Condon, no disrespect was ever intended. Gods and Monsters was a beautifully made tribute to one of filmmaking’s forgotten masters, and my wife and I cheered when his name was announced at the Oscars two years ago. It’s just that Gelbart has been one of my personal icons for many years. It’s good to see Condon has friends looking out for his interests, even against a little smart-ass shit like myself.

In Other News

Rachael Leigh Cook must have really enjoyed her experiences on 29 Palms. After starring and executive producing that film, following a bag of money that comes into contact with a number of people in the small desert town outside Palm Springs, she is looking to join the cast of Scorched, which will features three employees of a bank in a small desert town who all plan to rob their work the same weekend, except none know the other people’s plans. Scorched will also feature John Cleese, Woody Harrelson, Paulo Costanzo and former young producer Alicia Silverstone.

For the three of you who have been lamenting the fallow grounds known as the Canadian Film Industry… well, I’ll let you decide yourself. Lions Gate, having picked up the rights to Cube after its purchase of Trimark Pictures, has fast tracked Cube 2: Hypercube through development, looking to begin shooting on July 1. Can you possibly guess what the film is aboutr Come on. Think about it. A group of strangers wake up in a cube shaped room. They have no idea how they got there, and they’ll need to work together to escape the danger-filled ‘hypercube’, which operate in the fourth dimension and shifts into an unending maze of danger.

Chuck Palahniuk, the author of Fight Club, will be releasing his new novel Choke on May 22. Not content to wait, Bandeira Entertainment, producers of Requiem For A Dream, have snapped up movie rights to the latest opus from the new master of nihilism.

Crusader Entertainment, who got their so far humbled beginnings as producers of Phil Joanau’s direct to video fiasco Entropy, has picked up four of Clive Cussler’s novels featuring lead character Dirk Pitt. In Cussler’s books, Pitt has raised the Titanic, stopped the spread of germ warfare worldwide and for all intent and purpose is the American counterpart to 007, his exploits spread out through 14 novels. Atlantis Found, Flood Tide, Inca Gold and Sahara are the first of what will no doubt be a planned never-ending series of sequels featuring the latest technospy.

Never one to sit on their asses, Dreamworks has already began preliminary work on their next CG animated movie, based on the Bromeliad Trilogy of books by Terry Pritchard, where a group of tiny gnomes who live under the floorboards of a large department store must deal with the harsh realities of Outside when their home is slated to be demolished. Shrek co-director Andrew Adamson will team with Beavis and Butthead Do America co-writer Joe Stillman to bring this story to the screen.