Keira Knightley is in talks to play Eliza Doolittle in a feature update of the classic musical My Fair Lady. The film is set to be produced by Duncan Kenworthy, who worked with Knightley on 2003’s Love Actually. London theater bigwig Cameron Mackintosh, who has produced two stage revivals of My Fair Lady, is also a producer.
Variety says that although the film is being called an update, it will use the original Lerner & Loewe score and retain its 1912 setting. Elements of the original play, George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion–upon which the 1956 musical was based–will be incorporated to dramatize the emotional highs and lows of Doolittle as she evolves from Covent Garden flower girl to high street lady under the tutelage of Professor Henry Higgins. Alan Jay Lerner’s book of the Broadway musical will serve as the primary basis for the adaptation.
My Fair Lady, with book and lyrics by Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, was first staged in 1956 with Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison. Audrey Hepburn and Harrison starred in the Oscar-winning George Cukor-directed film in 1964.
The producers intend to shoot the film on location in the original London settings of Covent Garden, Drury Lane, Tottenham Court Road, Wimpole Street and the Ascot racecourse, notes Variety.
Kenworthy told Variety, “With 40 years of hindsight, we’re confident that by setting these wonderful characters and brilliant songs in a more realistic context, and by exploring Eliza’s emotional journey more fully, we will honor both Shaw and Lerner at the same time as engaging and entertaining contemporary audiences the world over.”
In the original film, Higgins comes across Doolittle during a night out at the theater. Her ear-bending accent offends his linguistic sensibilities and, on a bet, he ultimately takes her in promising to teach her ‘proper’ English and manners saying she will be able to pass off as a lady at a ball by the time he’s done. Doolittle struggles with the grueling lessons and the pair bicker endlessly. But in the end, she ultimately shines and finds a true bond with Higgins–in a love-hate sort of way.
The musical spawned such timeless songs as “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “Get Me to the Church on Time” and “The Rain in Spain.” In the original film, Hepburn’s singing was dubbed by Marni Nixon.