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Though we haven't heard more about Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, author J.K. Rowling is adding another Harry Potter project to her roster — this one a stage play. Though die-hard book and movie fans might balk (though in that case they should see the online sensation A Very Potter Musical to prove it can be done), it makes sense, as the one thing Harry Potter has always been is unbelievably British, and, luckily, the Brits have a long tradition of great theater.
From the city-wide morality plays in the Middle Ages to that famous writer guy who fell in love with GOOP, they've invented plenty of theatrical conventions over the years. What traditions will they mine for this new play?
Song-and-Dance Orphans: Rowling excitedly explained that "explore the previously untold story of Harry's early years as an orphan and outcast," without all that pesky magic and those beloved characters weighing things down. Seems Rowling is going for a more austere approach, which makes sense after the smash hit musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's dark novel Matilda made it to the West End and Broadway. Matilda used quick lyrics and a cast of adorable precocious preteens to worm its way into audiences' hearts, just like another plucky musical from the 1960s — Oliver!
Wartime Lightness: Times are tough, and most of the fantasy out there is reflecting that instead of providing escapism. But the most famous playwright of the Great Depression, Noel Coward, wrote comedies about the rich and stupid that provided plenty of laughs even for a jaded audience. For this new show, Rowling and Co. could focus on the Dursleys and their tacky, upper middle class lives and let their foibles (and their long-suffering domestic servant, Harry) bring the laughs.
Dramatic Irony: The story of Harry Potter is so famous, it might be impossible to write a show that competes with the original epic story. Instead, why not focus on a few minor characters and spin them off into their own wacky adventures, not unlike British writer Tom Stoppard did with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
The Bard: Another thing that bodes well is that Rowling won't be writing the piece. Just as she has with the films, she admits her role should be as a producer and advisor while she and her producing partners pick a suitable playwright to attend the tale. Could she be taking inspiration from that most famous of British playwrights... William Shakespeare?
But even for those of us who aren't conspiracy theory nuts, Rowling will probably be inspired by the Bard's classic story structure and ability to create lasting emotional moments despite being accessible and popular with the masses.
Well, Ms.-I'm-not-married-to-Tom-Cruise-anymore is having a banner year, isn't she? First, she separated from what's-his-name in February, which generated just a little bit of a buzz. Uh, right, just a little. With the news of the separation came the release of her film Moulin Rouge, which showed off her singing skills. Coincidence? Hmmm, I wonder. Then she wowed audiences with her performance in the Sixth Sense-ish thriller The Others, which some are saying may get her an Oscar nod.
Now she's looking at her next project, another thriller called The Forgotten for Revolution Studios, where she'll play a woman who joins forces with a man in searching for answers to the unsolved abductions of their children. Yikes. That sounds intense. She's also going to star in Danish director Lars von Trier's Dogville and the big-screen adaptation of Philip Roth's novel The Human Stain with Anthony Hopkins. Hey, it pays to get divorced from a big name star, doesn't it?
Bruce Lee isn't really dead
Somewhere on the site, I've already covered this as a serious news story, but it's worth mentioning again in my column for the pure ridiculousness of it. Seems some bright South Korean filmmakers have decided to digitally bring the very dead kung fu king Bruce Lee back to life to star in a movie called Dragon Warrior, with the blessings of Lee's widow and daughter, no less.
OK, I have to ask the question. Why? Honestly, what's the reason for this? I really can't see one. I mean, with all the martial arts talent we have these days (inspired in part by Lee himself), do we need Lee to come back? I simply have to shake my head at this one. Maybe the good Jet Li and the evil Jet Li should fight the dead Bruce Lee while Jackie Chan supervises.
But, if you thought that was bad...
Rambo vs. Osama. That's right-you heard me correctly. Sly Stallone has decided to resurrect his alter ego to take on the Taliban and is writing a script for a fourth Rambo installment. The story supposedly has Rambo parachuting into Afghanistan and capturing Osama bin Laden alive, according to a news report in the London Times. Stallone has professed in the past that he didn't think he was up to playing Rambo again but apparently has changed his mind since Sept. 11. Harvey Weinstein at Miramax said in March he'd be excited to do a Rambo film. "It's a billion-dollar property," Weinstein said.
Well, sure it is. The movie will probably make a ton of money because if President Bush can't get it done, Rambo will. Thanks, Sly, for pinpointing exactly what the American public wants to see. God bless America!
Carrey in the romantic spirit
Jim Carrey is looking to Universal Pictures/Jersey Films for his next project, starring in an untitled romantic comedy where he plays a man whose dead wife comes back to haunt him, forcing him to confront the "ghosts" in their relationship. Hmmm, sounds a little like the classic Noel Coward play Blithe Spirit, about a man who is haunted by his first wife while married to his second. Or maybe it'll be an updated comedic Ghost, where the guy gets the dead wife back. Who knows? With Carrey starring, it should at least be fun. Production is scheduled for March for a Christmas 2002 release.
Wahlberg and Jackman go for "Glory"
Here's a really different and totally unique premise--ready? Beefy Mark Wahlberg and hunky Hugh Jackman are negotiating to star in Pride and Glory, a "gritty drama set in the New York Police Department." Wow. Never seen that before. They'll play brothers who come from a three-generation family of cops and come to blows when one investigates a case of corruption involving his brother. The Fine Line Features film will be directed by Gavin O'Connor (Tumbleweeds), the real-life son of a New York cop. Sorry, I'm yawning already. Even with Jackman attached, whom I like, this doesn't sound remotely interesting.
The Crocodile Hunter's big moment
I was waiting for this one. Steve Irwin, that wacky Australian zoologist who has a serious death wish wrestling crocodiles, snakes and other nefarious animals on his Animal Planet show, will be getting the big-screen treatment in The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course. He and his wife, Terri, will play themselves in a story where they get involved with a CIA's agent search for a missing satellite. And get this--Bruce Willis' company Cheyenne Productions is producing the film. Irwin will be perfect as a movie star; he's such a ham. But someone should tell him the movie industry could be the most dangerous beast in the world. One bite, and you die.
A profile of playwright, cabaret composer and actor Noel Coward (1899-1973). Chronicles his image as a 1920s enfant terrible through his wartime career, his contacts with the Royal Family and his emigration from Britain. Includes clips from a 1969 BBC interview of Coward discussing his career and scenes from some of the films he wrote.