Les Miserables inexplicably perfected the formula for monetizing tears into gold on its way toward becoming one of the highest grossing film musicals of all time. However, like most modern Broadway musicals which are adapted into films, Les Miserables took the long road here. In fact, a director was first hired for a film adaptation of the Broadway show back in 1988. The film’s existence is a victory unto itself. The more common story goes like this:
- A Broadway musical is popular and makes money
- A film adaptation is announced, either officially or through rumor
- The film adaptation is either quietly-but-officially cancelled or simply never heard about again.
As such, it comes as no surprise that there are at least 16 Broadway musicals with announced/rumored film adaptations in the works. Most of these will never leave pre-production, but the financial success of Les Miserables might be the rising tide to lift all musicals and help a couple reach movie theaters. So, what is on tap?
- The Show: An adaptation of punk-rock band Green Day’s platinum-selling 2004 rock opera of the same name, the show ran on Broadway for 422 performances.
- Film First Announced: The rights for a film adaptation were purchased by Tom Hanks’ production company in March of 2010.
- Most Recent Update: Studio? Universal. Director? Michael Mayer. Who’s that? He directed the stage version. Lead Actor? Green Day’s own Billie Joe Armstrong. Release Date? 2013 (June 2011). Well, this is a bit unexpected, but there is now a documentary called Broadway Idiot about the making of the musical. It will be released on October (THR, August 2013).
- Verdict: No recent updates. Billie Joe Armstrong is only just now out of rehab. That 2013 release ain’t happening, and that documentary could either drum up support for a feature film or simply be the closest thing we’ll get to one.
- The Show: She’s an orphan. She lives in an orphanage. She has red hair and a hard knock life. Do you really not know what Annie is?
- Film First Announced: Will Smith is producing an adaptation at Sony with his daughter, Willow, in the titular role and Jay-Z handling the music (January, 2011)
- Most Recent Update: Willow Smith is out and Beasts of the Southern Wild star Quvenzhane Wallis is officially in as Annie. Even though his daughter is no longer involved, Will Smith is still producing the project. There is a quasi-official release date of December 24, 2014 (February, 2013). Jamie Foxx has been cast as a new version of Daddy Warbucks, and Will Gluck (Easy A, Friends with Benefits) is directing (June, 2013). Cameron Diaz has been cast as Miss Hannigan, beating Sandra Bullock for the role (THR, June 2013). The film has started production with a finalized cast consisting of people we didn’t already know about like Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, Amanda Troya, etc. (ScreenRant, Sept 2013). You can watch the trailer now:
- Verdict: Due out 12/19/14
- The Show: Originally released in 1955, the comedic show features a man selling his soul to ensure his favorite baseball team beats those damn Yankees (as a Kansas City Royals who remembers our long forgotten rivalry with the Yankees, I can sympathize). It’s most famous song ,”What Lola Wants,” was most recently heard in a Sofia Vergara Diet Pepsi commercial.
- Film First Announced: The producers of the Hairspray film were going to make it at New Line with Jim Carrey playing the devil and Jake Gyllenhaal the soul-selling main character (February, 2009)
- Most Recent Update: The film’s writer/director, Todd Graff, talked to MTV about the specific plans for updating the story for a modern audience (March, 2010).
- Verdict: Don’t hold your breath.
- The Show: An homage to the Ziegfield Follies, two disgruntled married couples attend a reunion at a soon-to-be-demolished theater at which they all first met many years prior when working as performers. Being at the theater forces the couples to confront the ghosts of their younger, more idealistic selves. I am particularly defenseless to the heartbreaking beauty of “Losing My Mind” and bitter defiance of “Could I Leave You.”
- Film First Announced/Most Recent Update: The show’s composer/lyricist seemingly confirmed rumors that Sam Mendes and Aaron Sorkin were working on a film version. When sought for comment, Sorkin was said to be stuck in an endless loop of walking down spiral staircases and reciting dissertations on the nature of sketch comedy or Washington politics or television news/sports shows or…well, he pretty much does the same thing everywhere he goes (May, 2008).
- Verdict: Don’t hold your breath.
- The Show: Rose is a domineering showbiz mother determined to make her children stars, all as a coping mechanism for her own failure to achieve individual stardom. Ethel Merman’s recording of the show’s song “Some People” is now iconic, for better or worse – worse for those who cannot stand Merman’s notoriously love-it-or-hate-it voice.
- Film First Announced: Studio? Warners Bros. Producer? Joel Silver. Starring? Barbara Streisand as Rose (January, 2011).
- Most Recent Update: Studio? Universal. Writer? Downton Abbey-creator Julian Fellowes. Starring? Still Streisand but maybe also Lady Gaga as Rose’s daughter Gypsy Rose Lee (March, 2012).
- Verdict: Don’t hold your breath.
In the Heights
- The Show: 3 Days. 2 Couples. Plus a full neighborhood of Dominican-Americans in the Washington Heights section of New York City. A winning lottery ticket as a macguffin. And around 99% more rapping than your average musical. All of that and a blackout in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights.
- Film First Announced: Studio? Universal Pictures. Producer? Meryl Poster. Who’s that? An uber-reality-television producer who also executive produced the film version of Chicago. Writer? Book-writer of the stage show Quiara Alegria Hude. Starring? Show creator and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda. Release Date? 2011 (November, 2008).
- Most Recent Update: Officially cancelled by Universal in March, 2011, the film received a very quiet reprieve when Scott Sanders Productions reported they were making it with George C. Wolfe (Nights in Rodanthe) directing and Lin-Manuel Miranda reprising the lead role he originated on the stage (November, 2012).
- Verdict: Wait and see.
Into The Woods
- The Show: The answer to the question, “What happens after ‘and they lived happily ever after’?”, Into the Woods weaves an original fairy tale about a cursed baker and his wife into the more familiar tales of Cinderalla, Jack & The Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel (with a cameo/reference for Snow White, among others). The result is a surprisingly moving reflection on multiple abject failures of parenting, “Careful the tales you tell, children will listen.”
- Film First Announced: Back in 1994, a script for a film was a commissioned and two all-star (Billy Crystal! Robin Williams! Goldie Hawn! Wait, was she still a star in 1994?) table readings of the script were conducted. Sondheim even wrote a new song for the film. Then nothing happened.
- Development Process: Who’s going to release it? Disney. Who’s going to direct it? Rob Marshall. The guy who made Chicago but also Nine. Who has been cast? There was a table reading in which stars such as Anna Kendrick and Patrick Wilson participated, but the only people officially cast are Meryl Streep as the Witch, Johnny Deep as the Wolf, and One Man, Two Guvnors star James Corden as the Baker. Sondheim has written new songs, one for the Witch and a new duet for the Baker and his wife (May, 2013). Now, Jake Gyllenhaal and Chris Pine are circling the roles of Cinderalla and Rapunezel’s Princes (HollywoodReporter, May 2013), and Emily Blunt is finalizing a deal to play the Baker’s Wife (Variety, May 2013). Disney has set a release date of December 25, 2014, which would currently mean it will open at the same time as the Will Smith-produced Annie (EW, June 2013). Anna Kendrick is in negotiations to play Cinderella (THR, June, 2013), but Jake Gyllenhaal has left and will be replaced by Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike star Billy Magnussen (Deadline, July 2013). Disney has officially announced Johnny Deep as The Wolf, Meryl Streep as The Witch, and Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, and Emily Blunt in un-specified roles (BleedingCool, August 2013), and 12-year-old Broadway actress Lilla Crawford has been cast as Little Red Riding Hood (Vutlure, September 2013).
- Most Recent Update: One report indicated Stephen Sondheim had said “Any Moment” had been cut from the film has had the death of the Baker’s Wife. Shortly thereafter Sondheim disputed the report (JustJared, June 2014).
- Verdict: Due out December 25, 2014.
Jekyll & Hyde
- The Show: Frank Wildhorn’s musical adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson story about the original, considerably more violent Nutty Professor. He’s a scientist. He does an experiment. Afterward, he has a split personality, one good, the other evil. In this telling of the story, he also sings, sometimes with himself.
- Film First Announced/Most Recent Update: The film rights were purchased by RP Media in January of 2013.
- Verdict: Way too early to say.
- The Show: A jukebox musical about the career of 1960s singing group Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, featuring such original Four Seasons hits as “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.”
- Film First Announced: New production company GK Films purchased the feature film rights to the show in 2010.
- Most Recent Update: Director? Jon Favreau. Who’s that? He made Iron Man. Yay! And Iron Man 2. Boo! Who’s the writer? John Hogan, who is best known for the screenplay for Hugo. Release Date? Christmas 2013. Who’s releasing it? No one. Wait, what? Warner Bros cancelled the film two months prior to production, and the producers are now seeking a new studio. The project is apparently thought to have limited to no appeal outside of the United States, ala similar American music-centric films Dreamgirls and Hairspray which both failed to attract wide foreign audiences (November, 2012). Favreau is out, but now Clint Eastwood is rumored to be stepping in as the new director (April, 2013). Eastwood has apparently cast Christopher Walken as “the Jersey mobster who, in the show, served an unofficial consigliere role to the young singers as they tried to build their careers without falling into the grip of organized crime” (Deadline July 2013). Donnie Kehr, Jeremy Luke, and and Joey Russo have all been cast in supporting roles (Playbill August 2013), and Erica Piccinni will reprise her role as Lorraine from the original Broadway production in the film (THR, August 2013). There’s a release date – it’s June 20, 2014. A curious choice for a summer release (Deadline, October 2013).
- Verdict: It’s out in theaters now, and not doing particularly well, critically or financially.
Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
- The Show: Based on the “coat of many colors” story of Joseph from the Bible’s Book of Genesis, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was the first Andrew Lloyd Webber-Rice musical to be performed publicly. Originally created by Webber and lyricist Tim Rice for performance in schools, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is the most performed musical in history
- Film First Announced: Elton John’s Rocket Company acquired the film rights and will produce alongside Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Company. Their intention is to create an animated feature film adaptation (THR, February 2014).
- Verdict: After Frozen, an animated musical seems like a good idea. Plus, by going animation instead of live action that would seem to present fewer barriers. However, this thing was just announced. Get excited, sure, but don’t get ahead of yourself.
Last Five Years
- The Show: A love story with a non-linear chronology? Eh, it’s been done (see: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 500 Days of Summer, Peter and Vandy). A love story about a five-year-long relationship in which the girl’s side of the tale is told in reverse chronological order (i.e., she starts at their divorce and moves backward) and the guy’s side is told in chronological order (i.e., he starts at their first meeting and moves forward)? And they sing about it? And there are only 2 cast members, the guy and the girl? Now, we’re talking, and talking specifically about Jason Robert Browne’s beloved off-Broadway show The Last Five Years.
- Film First Announced: The director? Richard LaGravenese. Who’s that? He directed The Bridges of Madison County. Who’s starring? Anna Kendrick, she of the annoyingly perfect skin and pitch perfect voice, rumored for the female lead. Anything else? Nope (October, 2012).
- Most Recent Update: In an interview to promote his new film Beautiful Creatures, LaGravenese confirmed the casting of Kendrick and indicated the film is to be an independent production shot using digital cameras over 22 days with a budget of $2 million. Now, Newsies/Smash star Jeremy Jordan has been cast in the male lead opposite Kendrick (February, 2013).
- Verdict: According to The Hollywood Reporter, not only is this film definitely happening it is in fact currently shooting in New York (here’s video evidence) (June, 2013). They finished filming a month later (Broadway.com, July 2013).
Little Shop of Horrors
- The Show: A remake/adaptation of a 1960s Roger Corman film, Rick Moranis is a floral shop worker who, as you do, raises a plant from outer space that feeds on human blood and flesh. He falls in love with Ellen Greene. They live happily ever after, despite whatever you might have heard about some crazy alternate ending. You hear me? They live happily ever after! Oh, also, I am referring specifically to the 1986 film, which was based on the 1982 Off-Broadway show, but to me this story will always star Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene.
- Film First Announced: The studio? Warner Bros. The producer? Marc Platt (Drive). The writer? Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Glee). The Seymour (aka Rick Moranis’ role)? Joseph Gordon-Levitt (May, 2012).
- Most Recent Update: In a podcast interview, the show’s original composer, Alan Menken, acknowledged a film was in the works, and that he would be loosely involved (October, 2012).
- Verdict: Wait and see.
- The Show: Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil’s next project after Les Miserables, Miss Saigon tells the story of Madame Butterly – an Asian woman is abandoned by an American lover – set against the backdrop of Saigon during the Vietnam War. Like Les Miserables, it is incredibly bleak and depressing. So, of course it became one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history.
- Film First Announced: Les Mis and Miss Saigon producer Cameron Mackintosh, in perhaps a Dr. Evil-like extortion scheme, declared that if the film version of Les Mis makes $500 million or more then he and Universal will make Miss Saigon next (December, 2012)
- Most Recent Update: Hugh Jackman admitted to having never seen Miss Saigon before, but Mackintosh still wants him for the film version (December, 2012). Lee Daniels told THR that his next two projects after a The Butler will be a Janis Joplin biopic and then Miss Saigon (THR, August 2013).
- Verdict: Too early to tell. If we take Mackintosh at his word, then this one is dead in the water because Les Mis is still south of $400 million worldwide and not likely to reach $500 million. But, still, that seems like a very high bar, one that only Mamma Mia has reached in musical film history.
My Fair Lady
- The Show: Itself an adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, My Fair Lady tells the story of Henry Higgins and his eternal search for his pair of slippers. Oh, also, he does the whole Pretty Woman/She’s All That thing with Eliza Doolittle, except here when her hair is pulled down she not only suddenly looks pretty but also sings about it. By now a very familiar story, My Fair Lady is still a titan in musical theater history, particularly the songs “The Rain in Spain”, “I Could Have Danced All Night,” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.” It is perhaps best known for its 1964 film adaptation, which won 8 Oscars, including Best Picture.
- Film First Announced: The studio? Columbia Pictures. The producers? Duncan Kenworthy and Cameron Mackintosh. The director? Joe Wright. Who’s that? He directed Atonement, Hanna, and, most recently, Anna Karenina. Wait, he did those other two and Hanna? Yep, it’s one of life’s great mysteries. Who’s playing Eliza Doolittle? Keira Knightley (June, 2008).
- Most Recent Update: The writer? Emma Thompson (yep, that Emma Thompson). The Doolittle? Carey Mulligan, she of the world’s most adorable pixie cut and one “a serious actress in repose” facial expression (I kid, I kid, she’s fantastic). Directing? Good question, but we know it ain’t Joe Wright anymore (March, 2010).
- Verdict: Don’t hold your breath. Nothing new since 2010? Not good.
- The Show: The Rodgers & Hammerstein classic explores racial prejudice during World War II through the twin tales of a U.S. Naval base nurse falling in love with an expatriate French plantation owner but not so-in-love with his mixed race children and a U.S. officer falling in love with an Asian woman. The themes of the show are best embodied in the song “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” …to hate.
- Film First Announced: Bob Balaban and his company Chicago Films announced they were working on an adaptation of the musical, said to be a harder-edged take on the original material (July, 2010).
- Most Recent Update: Via Twitter, Balaban indicated they had a screenplay in place (June, 2012).
- Verdict: Don’t hold your breath.
- The Show: The show chronicles the friendship of Elphaba and Glinda, the Wicked and Good witches from the original Wizard of Oz film respectively. Here, we follow them from adolescence into adulthood. Musically, the show is most known for the song “Defying Grafity.”
- Film First Announced: Studio? Universal. Anything else? The shows producer, book writer, and composer were meeting with prospective directors (2010).
- Most Recent Update: The show’s original producer Marc Platt insists, “There will be a movie.” Encouraging? Yes. Can he follow through on that? Umm, probably. When, though? Ah, that’s the bigger question. Additionally, the chairman for Universal has confirmed that the success of Les Mis has added to the expediency with which the studio will produce at least one of its in-development musicals, but it is unclear if that will benefit Wicked or Miss Saigon (February, 2013).
- Verdict: Time will tell.
Not on the list are The Book of Mormon, which although assumed to be a simple matter of when-not-if has not been officially announced, and Spring Awakening, whose chances die a little more every time someone new realizes they hate Lea Michele.
What do you think? Did I miss any? Are there any recent updates I have failed to notice for any of the above-listed projects? Are there musicals you are dying to see made into a film? Let me know in the comments section.
- Alex Timbers Set To Direct Shakespeare Musical Pic For Disney (m.deadline.com)