No one knows this yet but there's a new musical that will land on Broadway very soon and it will be a huge, huge hit.
How can we be so sure? Yes, the spankin' new musical comedy version of the smash indie "The Full Monty" opened last Thursday at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre to great reviews, including one in Monday's Variety, but this column has always been a little, uh, skeptical of critics.
But one of the theater world's most seasoned professionals (now a major force on the West Coast after having cut his teeth in New York for years) caught a preview early last week and declared "The Full Monty" an "unequivocal smash" and "howlingly commercial."
Yes, playwright Terrence McNally ("The Kiss of the Spider Woman," "Master Class," "Love! Valour! Compassion!") uncharacteristically breaks no new ground here, but he and novice musical comedy composer/lyricist David Yazbek deliver the kind of tuneful and funny traditional Broadway musical entertainment that is the high quality stuff of classics like "Damn Yankees" or "My Fair Lady," says our expert.
McNally adapted "The Full Monty" from Fox Searchlight's 1997 surprise megahit about a bunch of of unemployed and loveable losers from Sheffield, England. McNally wisely moved his story to blue collar Buffalo, New York. The film, which garnered an Oscar and received an additional three nominations, reportedly cost about $3.4 million but grossed about $256 million worldwide, including almost $50 million of that in the U.S.
Considering the potential revenues that the current musical version will generate, there's a good chance that 20th Century Fox -- footing most of the bill for the Broadway run -- could reap the largest profit ever for a motion picture film, as measured against its actual production cost. The feat may even eclipse the amazing "cross-platform" success of France's runaway hit play-turned-into film smash "La Cage aux Folles," which subsequently triumphed on Broadway as a musical comedy.
The six leads in the new "Monty" aren't exactly household names but Broadway could change all that.
What upbeat but shy critics of the "Full Monty" stage version have neglected to mention is that, like its cinematic counterpart, this new "Monty" offers beaucoup nudity in its finale. But whereas the film delivered derrieres, this musical version has the stars face the audience stark naked. However (and we credit a crafty lighting designer for this one), the actors are so brightly backlit, their, ahem, parts are spared.
And here's a little Broadway postscript. Geographically-challenged fans who are fond of great acting but can't get to Broadway's "The Real Thing" to see just-crowned Tony winner Stephen Dillane should be able to strike gold at their video store. Dillane delivered a brilliant performance in Miramax's underrated "Welcome to Sarajevo," in which he plays a British TV journalist of immense sensitivity and passion covering the violent fighting in the war-torn town in 1992. Trust us.The Miramax Home Entertainment release is proof that, when it comes to acting, Dillane is "the real thing."
YOU CAN GET THERE FROM HERE: No doubt, U.S. attendees at New York's just-wrapped International Network 2000 (TIN2000) three-day conference covering Internet and new economy trends overseas were relieved to learn that the mind-boggling changes and uncertainties wrought by the new mass medium are every bit as mind-boggling to players beyond our shores.
Fortunately, attendees, reminded at every turn that this new medium is global, were able to mine nuggets of information and insight, perhaps affording some much-needed dot-calm as we all navigate the eye of this new media storm.
On the content side, we were reminded that, although dot-coms have a global reach, the best strategy is to customize content for local use and have local management in place to exploit it and serve local customers. Indeed, Amazon was chastised for being a global brand yet not having local operations.
Advertisers as "broad-brand" as Coca Cola will jump at global opportunities while other advertisers will appreciate reaching local markets. And let's not forget the hints that Internet portals eventually may serve as our desktops.
On the technology side, the U.S. remains the innovator for proprietary technology. But watch out for countries like Israel or France that want a piece of that action. A French group, for instance, is developing a promising (and very secret) wireless technology for B2B transactions.
Also on the technology front, wireless transmission is the coming monster, although it will be data services (quotes, short messaging and paging) – not multimedia – and the WAP platform standard that initially take hold.
Star Media's Fernando Espuelas characterized the new media changes in South America as a "revolution" fueled by free ISPs and wireless penetration.
On the business side, attendees shaken by the recent paroxysms on Wall Street were warned to "retain cash."
And TIN2000 offered its share of aphorisms like "it's not the idea; it's the execution" advice to entrepreneurs seeking financing for start-ups.
The unimaginable growth of the Internet was excellently conveyed by Chinadotcom's U.S. president Andrew Miller, who reminded attendees that there are about 25,000 Chinese language Web sites and dozens of new ones emerging every day.
On the how-is-this-territory-different front, Miller told the audience that credit cards are virtually non-existent in China, thus setting minds to ponder how one billion Chinese might one day efficiently engage in e-commerce. And how is the U.S. different? In wireless, we're way behind a lot of markets like Japan, Scandinavia, and other European markets.
On the copycat front, overseas companies tend to look to the U.S. for business models.
And on the ego-building, power-to-the-little-people front, attendees – cowed by the new media giants and their mega-buck, mega-deals -- were relieved to be reminded that, in spite of a billion spent, AOL couldn't build a real content company and Time Warner couldn't create a real online business.
The three-day session was a richly-informative combo of keynote speeches from the likes of preternaturally charismatic Star Media CEO Fernando Espuelas and linguistically-gifted Chinadotcom U.S. president Andrew Miller; think tank panels focusing on individual overseas territories like France, the U.K. and Latin America; Fireside Chats between TIN2000 co-chair and resident gadfly Jason McCabe Calacanis and important mucky-mucks like Lycos CEO Bob Davis; and sponsor presentations from Net and technology giants like IBM and Real Media.
May we suggest for the immediate future a new media conference, or at least a panel, from anyone that will address – How To Manage Sooooo Much Information?
THE STREETS OF NEW YORK: They've been romanticized to death in films noir and otherwise and in plays, books, etc. but sometimes these "mean streets" just mean death.
Last week, New York media extensively covered the tragic death of Randolph Walker, a 71 year-old journeyman stage and commercials actor, known for his generosity, tenacity, and ability to survive in one of the world's toughest professions.
Walker was struck down and killed near Times Square by a double-decker tour bus, on his way back from an audition for the indie film "Dummy." (Disclosure: "Buzz/Saw's" reporter brought the two producers of "Dummy" together.)
Well-known stage and film character actor Marilyn Cooper, currently seen in a small role in "Keeping the Faith," was at the "Dummy" audition with Walker, whom she called "a lovely person an friend."
Producers Bob Fagan and Richard Temtchine and writer/director Greg Pritikin were so shaken by the news, they have vowed to somehow honor the memory of Walker in their film.
Set to roll this Saturday, "Dummy" stars Adrien Brody, Milla Jovovich, Vera Farmiga, and Illeana Douglas. It's a wry comedy about some colorful and charmingly quirky characters who triumph over adversity, ultimately finding happiness as fullfilled players in their respective, "nichey" worlds. The terrible irony is that Randolph Walker, before his tragic death, had managed to do just that.
BUZZ CUTS: Coke Gets Hip: Gulp! We just learned a bit about the new teen Coca-Cola-sponsored soaper series "Young Americans," that the WB net will begin airing in July. According to our spy, the pilot installment, set at a prestigious boarding school in a typical New England town, serves up both "cross-dressing and sublimated incest" amidst its blueblood and blue collar young characters. "Young Americans" is the concoction of Steven Antin, a former David Geffen protege when he (Antin) was of a tender age. "It's 'Cruel Intentions' meets 'Dawson's Creek' and it's juicy," says our guy. But does it go with Coke?, ask we, also sensing a bit of "Peyton Place" and "The Skulls" thrown into the spicy hot stew...Biz-y Couples: Variety Editor Peter Bart and his wife, bedecked in an unforgettable hat, stepped out Sunday to attend the downtown New York wedding of Variety New York reporter Paula Bernstein and Anthony Orkin. The Barts noshed on caviar, lox and sushi hors-d'oeuvres at the reception, then attended the ceremony, but skipped the sumptuous dinner. And warring spouses Rudy Giuliani, New York City Mayor, and his broadcast personality and actress wife Donna Hanover are together again, at least as nominal co-hosts of New York City's annual Crystal Apple Awards party for the city's entertainment community. Their two names grace the invitation to the upcoming June 14 lawn event at the Mayor's home as if their nasty dust-up never landed on the front pages of the city's tabloids...We Can Still Trust Him: Mark Wahlberg ("Boogie Nights," "Three Kings") can be trusted since he hasn't turned 30 yet. In fact, Wahlberg celebrated his 29th birthday June 5 at a Seattle birthday party tossed by his fellow cast members and crew on the rock 'n' roll film "Metal God." Appropriately, the rock film moved to rock mecca Seattle this past weekend for the final days of shooting. For the party, Mark's pals booked The Painted Table, the restaurant at the Alexis Hotel, where everyone is boarding. Coincidentally, the always successful Seattle International Film Festival, like "Metal God," wraps later this week (Sunday, to be exact). Already Festival buzz is about what they're calling the very hilarious "Sordid Lives," a soon-to-be-picked up comedy about an unusual Texas family that stars Olivia Newton-John, Beau Bridges, Bonnie Bedelia, and Delta Burke...King and Cook: Sadly, Mary Jenkins Langston, Elvis Presley's longtime cook, died this week. Langston was captured in the wonderful BBC/Cinemax documentary "The Burger and the King," based on "The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley," David Adler's book about Elvis and his eating proclivities. Adler, who also served as associate producer of the documentary, remembers Langston telling him that besides the King's penchant for rich foods, he was especially fond of breakfasts and had them served to him in bed. Since Presley was a nocturnal person, his fatty breakfasts were delivered towards evening. Unfortunately for fans of Presley and good docs, the critically-acclaimed "The Burger and the King" has not been cleared for video. Apparently, but not definitely, this media "artery" was "blocked" by the Elvis Presley estate...Speaking of Docs: A surefire hit on the horizon has emerged from New York's about to wrap third annual "docfest." It's a 55 minute show from Britain's Jane Treays called "One Man, Six Wives and Twenty-Nine Children." The doc focuses on religious Mormon Tom Green and his many wives and offspring who live in their own isolated trailer park-like spread in the Utah desert. This one will rock audiences and rattle long-held notions about polygymy. Stay tuned for more on this, especially because Green is about to lock horns with the state of Utah, which is prosecuting him on charges of child rape and bigamy. Treays hopes to cover the trial and incorporate that material into a revised feature-length version of the film. Look for a fast sale of the current version to U.S. television...USA Films begins screenings this week in New York of Neil LaBute's comedy "Nurse Betty," starring Renee Zellweger, Greg Kinnear, Chris Rock and Morgan Freeman. The film marks the first that LaBute ("In the Company of Men," "Your Friends and Neighbors") directed but did not write (LaBute did do a rewrite). A lucky choice it was since the screenplay by James Flamberg and John Richards was a recent Cannes Film Fest winner.
How do you sell a really big summer movie if all the good guys, including your major stars, die at the end? (At least Kate Winslet's Rose Dewitt Bukater, if not poor Leo, survived the "Titanic" !)
When the film is Warner Bros.' "The Perfect Storm," which opens later this month, stars George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg have to take a back seat to the movie's real star – the storm itself.
At least that's how Warner Bros.' marketing campaign has lined up its ducks. In the print ads, trailers, TV ads, Web and radio promotions, it's the storm, storm, storm (and loud she is!) they're pushing. There's barely a glimpse of George and Mark, who were seen together last year in "Three Kings."
This marketing manoeuvering for "The Perfect Storm" was surely tricky, especially since the huge marquee value of Clooney and Wahlberg had to be devalued. The film is based on Sebastian Junger's big bestseller of the same title about the real-life 1991 storm that claimed all six lives aboard the Gloucester, Mass. fishing vessel Andrea Gail. Millions of readers already know what happened to the fisherman.
So, while the storm may not have been as "perfect" and infamous as the iceberg that got the Titanic, there's plenty of awareness out there that "The Perfect Storm" has a bummer of an ending. Hence, the savvy marketing that has made The Storm the star (new Oscar category, Best Storm?).
When it blows into theaters June 30th, "The Perfect Storm," like the storm it depicts, will be huge. Director Wolfgang Petersen, who so brilliantly delivered life underwater in the German U-boat blockbuster "Das Boot," will show us what he can do above the waves. And those waves can be 100' high, a whole lot taller than Clooney and Wahlberg.
ALLEY SPAWNS STAR?:The New York New Media Assn.'s recent panel, "Entertainment Online: Are We Having Fun Yet?," made two things perfectly clear: No, we are not having fun yet, and, no, we are not making money yet.
Nor was there any consensus about what "entertainment" actually is. In fact, the real news last Tuesday was that high-profile Alley watcher and media maven Jason McCabe Calacanis, one of the evening's not-having-fun-yet panelists, might become a movie star. But more on that later.
Panel moderator and L.A. Times journo Leah Gentry kept hammering the distinguished panel, which included Calacanis, XM Satellite Radio President and CEO Hugh Panero, party animal and Pseudo founder Josh Harris, and gamester Greg Costikyan, with the question "How do you make money with entertainment content?" Only Panero's subscription-based venture, which will deliver a great variety of digitally-crisp radio channels to cars, suggested a viable business model, except that XM's "fun" is down the road, so to speak, since the venture has yet to launch its satellites.
Unfortunately, that knotty question of fun which was to be the focus of the evening's discussion never even got addressed until an audience member – no doubt wanting to get his money's worth (tickets began at $15 a pop) -- posed the embarrassing question during Q&A. Only one panelist, "fun" guy Harris, dared wrestle with the audacious inquiry by confessing that his idea of fun on the Net is playing Solitaire on his Windows desktop.
So what about all these short films, games, flash animations, etc. spinning around the Web? Gamemeister Costikyan, who wrote the book "The Future of Online Games," kept waxing enthusiastic about gaming's popularity and "stickiness" on the Web (So many people do it! The Web's interactive capabilities make games a natural! Players keep coming back!). Still, Greg didn't show us the money.
So while matters of money and fun were left in the dust as panelists kept emphasizing the new medium's infancy (Look how long cable took to catch on!), the real "entertainment" and "fun" news of the evening was broken by Calacanis, who announced that he has a speaking role in Wayne Wang's upcoming, digitally-captured feature "Center of the World."
Calacanis did not discuss plot or his role but allowed that he also contributed to the screenplay, which Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt wrote.
So what is "Center of the World" about? According to Artisan Entertainment, which is producing with Redeemable Features and gave us that little item known as "The Blair Witch Project," "Center..." is in the tradition of such ultra-steamy films as "Last Tango in Paris," "9 ½ Weeks," and "In the Realm of the Senses."
The story's hero, played by Peter Sarsgaard ("Boys Don't Cry"), is a young computer wizard in San Francisco who has just become an IPO multimillionaire. Apparently he drops some of this newly-won coin at a chic club where he meets a beautiful stripper. Immediately attracted to one another, they take off for three days in Las Vegas where they explore the limits of their sexuality and the nature of passion.
Hopefully they keep their cell phones off and hopefully ever-inquisitive Web Watcher Calacanis stays in character and doesn't ruin their offline onscreen fun.
A MATTER OF 'SURVIVAL'?: As the insatiable appetite for reality-based television becomes more of a, well, reality, producers are frantically scurrying for the Next Next Thing in this exploding genre. And Buzz/Saw radar may have picked up some news-breaking signals regarding a new series.
The reality craze derives from early TV's game shows, gained impetus with PBS's "American Family," and really got going with Court TV, MTV's "The Real World," Robin Leach's leering "Rich and Famous" series, and E! Entertainment's coverage of how we party and have fun.
Cable's growing hunger for things real is even taking us inside the human body as a number of shows feature actual medical procedures. And PBS is back in the game with "1900 House."
Now, comes reality's biggest audience-winning coup. CBS's new "Survivor" series, with its weekly look at a cross-section of regular folk marooned on a island and chowing down on rats or live worm-like bugs, just trounced ABC's "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire." This week marks the season premiere of "The Real World" and later this summer comes CBS's "Big Brother," another import from Europe, that keeps constant surveillance over a group of people packed into a house from which, except for one person, they will, one by one, be voted out by audiences.
But, could a mysterious new series called "Ship Mates" ("Noah's Love Ark" and "Shipboard Romance" are other titles under consideration), uh, blow "Survivor," "Big Brother," the lot of em out of the water?
The alleged series combines four of America's biggest crazes -- reality programming, luxury cruise ships, fast and easy money, and the Internet! -- with the profound human need to be loved, the omnipresent tingle of real paranoia, and that old perennial sex.
Throw in for good measure Big Stars and a whiff of an already proven TV classic ("The Love Boat") and, voila! You have "Noah's Love Ark" (our preferred title).
Quite simply, "Noah's Love Ark" brings twenty singles together in the sealed-off, totally opulent first class area of a mega-cruise ship for two weeks. The ten men and ten women, who do not use their real names and will be totally isolated from the outside world, will eat sumptuous meals, play a series of shipboard games and indulge in a variety of networking and entertainment activities until they pair off.
Audiences will participate by predicting the results on the Net. The first few to identify who pairs off with whom wins. And the twenty participants have a chance to win big if they can identify -- the Big Phony among them!
This is where the paranoia comes in. "Noah's Love Ark" pro ucers will recruit a budding actor to play one of the love-hungry singles. They will invent a character he or she will have to maintain throughout the trip. Whoever of the twenty first spots the actor and successfully "outs" him/her is the on-board winner.
Of course, the show's Big Stars will be flown in to a port city to be brought on board for a day or two to entertain the troops, just like on other major cruise ships. As the cruise industry gets more competitive, companies will be dying to show off their boats and will be happy to make them available to "Noah's..." producers for free. So even the show's producers come up winners!
And of course, the concept allows for tons of variations: gay cruises, ethnic cruises, yuppie cruises, cruises for antique lovers who are single, cruises for widows and widowers or Net junkies who'd have to give up their habit for a few weeks. In "reality," it could go on and on. And so could we...
LEOFEST TO LAUNCH: It's not just Santa who will be arriving any day soon. Leonardo DiCaprio will be delivering the official version of his LeoFest International Online Short Film Festival to the Web right after the New Year/new millennium celebration (a work-in-progress site is up now).
LeoFest is calling for anyone, anywhere (Tonga! Iceland! Wichita! You name it!) to submit for consideration a film of up to 15 minutes in any of the following categories: narrative, documentary, animation and alternative. Filmmakers will have to make transfers before they submit since LeoFest says that no film stock of any gauge will be accepted (Take that, Eastman Kodak!).
While prizes haven't yet been announced, we've heard that Leo himself will be awarding grand prizes of $20,000 to all finalists, and it's money right out of his own pocket. And we bet that the talent scouts at Leo's all-powerful management company, Mike Ovitz's AMG, will take a careful look at the cream of the entries.
Filmmakers worldwide should also know that they need to accompany each submission with $35 and create subtitles for any work that is not English-language. But just as the Web is fluid, no doubt LeoFest will evolve through a number of changes, as DiCaprio, aping actor-turned festmeister Robert Redford does his Sundance in cyberspace.
With the Kirk Douglas starrer "Diamonds" just opened, the big screen now has two high-profile features with major characters as stroke victims. Robert De Niro, in MGM's "Flawless," is stricken but ultimately and unexpectedly comforted by a compassionate drag queen neighbor (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
In the more lightweight "Diamonds," Douglas, who suffered a real stroke several years ago, delivers an enormously energetic performance as a former boxer who takes a road trip to Nevada with his son (Dan Aykroyd) and grandson (Corbin Allred) to recapture his youth and some hidden diamonds. Douglas sparkles like a "diamond" in this latest, but fans also wanting to recapture vintage Douglas can do so at The Screening Room's 16-film American Film Institute retrospective of the Hollywood royal which began over the weekend in New York.
MORPH 'N' OTHER THINGS:
Attendees at the Venture Capital in New Media Conference last week at New York's Columbia University, sponsored by Columbia's Business School, learned that "continuous morphing" -- a process of changing function and form together by way of dynamic differentiation and resource layering -- is the way for an Internet site to survive and thrive.
In less abstract terms, would-be Internet moguls were told that, content-wise, bigger is better (content will be king!) and that building a brand image to draw and retain traffic is also key. Of course, marketing is a must, but it's the timing of that marketing that is all-important. But that other m-word, "morphing," is what has pushed companies like Yahoo! to the forefront.
BUZZ CUTS ...
No Play, Please, I'm Skittish: She's a "name" actress we've seen on the big and small screen many times who once had a husband who still has an even bigger name than hers, but she devastated a New York theater company this week with news that she is bowing out of a play she committed to, after many meetings and a promise to star. She explained her last-minute bolt by saying she is "afraid" of the project....
Buzz Bits: Veteran TV talk-show host Sally Jessy Raphael is throwing a "Carnival in Venice" New Year's Eve party for the millennium for about 100 guests at her Pawling, N.Y., spread. Will any of the guests -- all asked to dress up for this costume ball - dare to show up as a certain vet talk-show host with signature flaming red glasses? ... Filmmaker Neil LaBute's controversial play "Bash," now running in Los Angeles with stars Calista Flockhart, Ron Eldard and Paul Rudd, is being taped Thursday for a premiere airing on Showtime. The play, which comprises three one-acts focusing on men (and a woman) as beasts, was named one of Time magazine's top 10 plays of 1999. Not so beloved by all scribes, "Bash" afforded brilliantly viscious critic John Simon the opportunity to outdo himself in a colossally mean and nasty attack of the play in New York magazine last summer. ... Hot film "Toy Story 2," again the top-grossing film this weekend, will have a very cold incarnation beginning Jan. 18 when Disney On Ice's all-live "Toy Story" takes to the ice at New York's Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. ... Yes, yes, yes. A certain film mogul we know swears that Roman Polanski ("Chinatown," "Rosemary's Baby"), the great director whose involvement with a 13-year-old has made him a persona non grata stateside for many years, will be allowed back into this country for the premiere of his upcoming "The Ninth Gate" in March.