Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, the producers behind the big-screen version of the musical Hairspray, have found the leads for Damn Yankees, their latest cinematic adaptation of a Broadway hit. Jake Gyllenhaal has signed on to play Joe Boyd, a happily married man who sells his soul to a smooth salesman, who will be played by Jim Carrey, to help save his favourite sports team. The Damn Yankees storyline is based on the Faust legend but recast to take place in the 1950s in the stage version, which was directed by George Abbott and choreographed by Bob Fosse. The Meron/Zadan film will be given a contemporary makeover. Damn Yankees was previously filmed in 1958 by Warner Bros using the original Broadway cast.
The American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is set to get the big-screen treatment in a new film to be directed by the two-time Sundance winner Ondi Timoner (DiG!). The Perfect Moment will follow the career of the acclaimed photographer who rose to fame in the 1970s photographing socialites and rock stars. Mapplethorpe was well known for his stylised black-and-white photographs. The driving force behind the biopic is Eliza Dushku, the young star of the American television series Dollhouse. According to the Hollywood trade magazine Variety, Dushku has secured the film rights from Mapplethorpe's estate and will have its full co-operation on the project. Dushku's Boston Diva Productions and Timoner's Interloper Films will produce The Perfect Moment, which will be Timoner's first feature film.
The Swedish author Stieg Larsson was the second best-selling author in the world last year thanks to the success of his mystery thriller, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. (The Afghan author Khaled Hosseini with The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns took the top spot.) According to Variety, the movie rights to the book are doing the rounds in Hollywood via the United Talent Agency, which is looking to secure a deal for an English-language feature based on the popular mystery thriller. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo follows a journalist-turned-detective, Mikael Blomkvist, and a fearless computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander, on the case in a series of murders and corporate trickery fiascos. A Swedish feature film based on the book was released in Scandinavia last week, and is set to roll out across Europe this spring. Selling more than 10 million copies worldwide, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was the first in a proposed series of 10 books by Larsson, who completed only three of the novels before he died of a heart attack in 2004 aged 50.
Keira Knightley's action-packed schedule is one film lighter this week after plans for a blockbusting US$36 million (Dh132 million) production of Shakespeare's King Lear have been mysteriously shelved. Announced at the Cannes Film Festival last year, the film was to be produced by the British company Ruby Films, previously responsible for movies such as The Other Boleyn Girl and Shaun of the Dead. Knightley was set to play Lear's daughter Cordelia, her first major Shakespearean role. Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins and Naomi Watts were set to join her in the film. But according to the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, Ruby Films last week said simply that the project would no longer go ahead but refused to comment on why. Several news reports on the cancellation suggest that financial problems could have been the reason, pointing out that, if so, it would be the first high-profile Hollywood casualty of the recession. But it is also rumoured that Ruby Films was unnerved by the announcement last month of a rival Lear film going into production, starring Al Pacino in the title role and directed by Michael Radford.
Doubts over whether or not the third instalment in The Chronicles of Narnia franchise would see the light of day were laid to rest last week after a new screenwriter boarded the big-screen adaptation of the CS Lewis novel, The Voyage of the Dawntreader. Michael Petroni has been hired to adapt the third of the seven Narnia books for the producers Walden Media and Fox 2000, after Disney exited the project in December causing concern that the film would sink. Michael Apted (Amazing Grace) will direct Dawntreader, which is expected to start production this summer in time for a holiday release next year.