In what seems to be an unprecedented creative move, the pop icon will direct a film about her life and career — one that’s been heavily teased on her social media accounts, through script sessions with her Oscar-winning co-writer Diablo Cody.
That Madonna, whose staggering five-decade career has seen countless musical reinventions and a run at filmmaking and acting, would direct her own journey from New York City’s slums to the heights of global stardom is beyond rare. The super-famous are often involved peripherally as creative consultants and executive producers in their own adapted stories (like recent awards players like Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman).
The untitled film has landed at Universal Pictures, under the wing of filmed entertainment group chair Donna Langley and producer Amy Pascal, whose eponymous company is set up on the Universal lot. A production timeline is unknown and principal cast has yet to be announced.
“I want to convey the incredible journey that life has taken me on as an artist, a musician, a dancer — a human being, trying to make her way in this world,” Madonna said in a statement. “The focus of this film will always be music. Music has kept me going and art has kept me alive. There are so many untold and inspiring stories and who better to tell it than me. It’s essential to share the roller coaster ride of my life with my voice and vision.”
Langley praised Madonna as “the ultimate icon, humanitarian, artist and rebel.”
“With her singular gift of creating art that is as accessible as it is boundary-pushing, she has shaped our culture in a way very few others have,” Langley said.
Sara Zambreno and Guy Oseary will executive produce. Senior executive VP of Production Erik Baiers and director of development Lexi Barta will oversee the project on behalf of the studio.
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The project is a reunion of sorts of Madonna and Pascal, who made the sentimental favourite A League of Their Own together in 1992.
“This movie is an absolute labor of love for me,” Pascal said. “I have known Madonna since we made ‘A League of Their Own’ together, and I can’t imagine anything more thrilling than collaborating with her and Diablo on bringing her true-life story to the big screen with Donna and our partners at Universal.”
Madonna has previously directed two features, the 2008 drama Filth and Wisdom, and the 2011 Golden Globe-winning W.E. Her acting credits include Desperately Seeking Susan, Dick Tracy, and 1996’s Evita, which earned her a Golden Globe for best actress.
Her musical bonafides include the tiles of best-selling female music artist in history, with 335 million records worldwide, and highest-grossing solo touring artist of all time. Madonna was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, and counts 658 prominent global award nominations and 225 wins.
Cody is an Academy Award winner for best original screenplay for “Juno.” She also wrote and produced Jennifer’s Body, and Charlize Theron’s Young Adult.
Madonna is represented by CAA and Maverick. Cody is represented by WME, MXN Entertainment and McKuin Frankel Whitehead LLP.
Chris Rock is rolling into Studio 8H for Saturday Night Live‘s season opener.
The SNL vet is set to host the late-night sketch series’ Season 46 premiere on Oct. 3, live from 30 Rock with a limited, in-person audience. He will be joined by musical guest Megan Thee Stallion.
Rock was an SNL cast member from 1990-1993. He previously returned to host in 1996 and 2014. His third go-round will coincide with Jim Carrey’s debut as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. The episode airs just four days after the first primetime debate between the former vice president and incumbent POTUS Donald Trump.
Rock is currently making the rounds to promote the fourth season of FX’s Fargo (premiering Sunday, Sept. 27). Meanwhile, Megan Thee Stallion recently released her latest album “Suga,” which spawned the hit single “Savage.”
As previously reported, SNL will welcome back its entire ensemble — including Kate McKinnon — for Season 46. The show has also added three new featured players: improv vets Lauren Holt, Punkie Johnson and Andrew Dismukes — the latter of whom has been an SNL staff writer since Season 43.
It turns out, there is one very particular superhero Lamorne Morris dreams of playing. “Gambit,” he says without skipping a beat. “I want to play Gambit. That’s it, put it out there, man. I want to play Gambit, please, please, please, please. He’s my favorite.”
Of course, when it comes to comic book movies, Gambit seems to be cursed. There may be no Marvel character that has struggled more when it comes to the big screen. At least multiple efforts have been made to put out a good Fantastic Four movie. Despite being a fan favorite in the ’90s X-Men animated series, the only live-action incarnation of Gambit was in the infamous box office dud, X-Men: Origins: Wolverine, with Taylor Kitsch in the brief role.
Attempts to bring Gambit into the cinematic fold date back to 2003’s X2, with director Bryan Singer casting stunt actor James Bamford to cameo. The scene involving Bamford as Gambit wound up on the cutting room floor, and although Singer reportedly planned to bring in Gambit for the third X-Men movie, he ultimately left the project to work on Superman Returns.
Channing Tatum has been talking about wanting to play Gambit as far back as 2013. Setback after setback kept the project from moving forward despite serious attempts, until finally the Fox-Disney merger happened and squashed basically all Fox’s X-Men projects indefinitely.
Producer Ryan Murphy and director Joe Mantello have come not to bury the past but to slavishly recreate it, sort of, with “The Boys in the Band,” a feature film starring the cast that the two assembled for the 2018 revival of Mart Crowley’s groundbreaking play about a group of urban gay frenemies.
“Groundbreaking” is one of the last adjectives one could apply to this ossified remake, which scavenges the surface of William Friedkin’s 1970 film version with all the depth of a magazine layout or a theme party. Whether or not you think Crowley’s very of-its-moment piece still has something to say to audiences of the 21st century, it’s a play that deserves better than this waxwork karaoke.
Michael (Jim Parsons), who grapples with his gay identity via retail therapy and Catholic guilt, throws a birthday party for the acerbic Harold (Zachary Quinto). The guests include the unapologetically flamboyant Emory (Robin de Jesus); librarian Bernard (Michael Benjamin Washington, “Ratched”); conservative Hank (Tuc Watkins), who’s leaving his wife and family for roving-eyed Larry (Andrew Rannells); neurotic stud Donald (Matt Bomer); and hustler Cowboy (Charlie Carver), whom Emory has purchased for the evening as Harold’s gift. There’s also a surprise appearance by Michael’s old college chum Alan (Brian Hutchison, “The Sinner”).
Watch Video: Jim Parsons Spoils a Birthday Party With a Heartbreaking Game in Ryan Murphy’s ‘The Boys in the Band’ Trailer
“The Boys in the Band,” paradigm-shifter though it was in its frank portrayal of a certain segment of gay life, is rather traditional in structure; it’s one of those Broadway plays where various character types gather together in a room and very quickly begin hurling long-buried truths and accusations at each other. One might hope that certain aspects of what it has to say about how gay men function in American society and how they feel about themselves and each other are part of the past. (“Show me a happy homosexual,” Michael notes in an oft-quoted line, “and I’ll show you a gay corpse.”) But it’s a work that can and does have relevance as a piece of drama (that’s often very funny) and delight as a showcase for actors.
Both the relevance and the delight turn up every so often in this new version, but not nearly enough. Mantello doesn’t quite go full “Gus Van Sant remaking ‘Psycho’” in his dedication to Friedkin’s work, but the influence of the original is there, from the shots of Donald driving into the city from the Hamptons to the recreation of Phil Smith’s set decoration. As cover versions go, however, it’s fairly soulless.
Friedkin, as he often did in his theatrical adaptations, played up the claustrophobia and the closeness. You could feel the humidity building up to the thunderstorm that drives everyone inside for the final act, and you could see the sweat on the faces of this boozy, barb-tongued crew. There’s none of that here; heck, there’s not even a single mark on Quinto’s flawless complexion, which renders his character’s self-description as a “pock-marked Jew fairy” utterly meaningless.
Also Read: Mart Crowley, ‘The Boys in the Band’ Playwright, Dies at 84
One of the few ways that Mantello and screenwriter Ned Martel, who shares writing credit with Crowley, break away from the previous movie is with a handful of flashbacks and an epilogue, which further dissipate the tension and offer little of dramatic value, although they do shoehorn some nudity into the otherwise fully-dressed proceedings.
And while de Jesus offers some of the best acting work in the film, it’s a bit of a cop-out changing Emory from a white character to a Latinx one, as it diminishes the character’s stream of jokey racist put-downs to Bernard, and Bernard’s eventual explanation as to why he allows it. If filmmakers are going to re-create 1968, it’s cheating to retroactively let white characters’ racist behavior off the hook.
What works best here is Crowley’s still-pungent dialogue, when delivered by actors who get the balance of wit, self-loathing, and rage. In addition to de Jesus, Washington, Watkins, and Rannells tackle the words with the deepest understanding and emotional flair, while Carver nails the jokes, of which his character is generally the butt.
Also Read: How ‘Hollywood’ Star Jim Parsons Tried to Find the Heart of a ‘Despicable Character’
Disappointingly, it’s the bigger names in the bigger roles that drop the ball; Parsons whines so gratingly that we can’t imagine how Michael has enough friends to fill a party, and Quinto takes Harold’s most acridly funny lines and turns them into Dennis Haysbert talking about car insurance.
This is another Ryan Murphy production, on the heels of “Hollywood,” that turns the trauma of the past into a fashion show. (One imagines his connection to the material being less about the evolution of gay men and their role in society and more “Wow, ascots!”) Crowley, the friends and lovers who inspired him to create this cast of characters, and all the queer pioneers who paved the way for the current LGBTQ+ community, deserve a remake more pungent and more powerful than this mostly airless spectacle.
‘Hollywood’: Here Are All the Real People Who Appear in Ryan Murphy’s New Netflix Series (Photos)
Queen Latifah as Hattie McDaniel, the first person of color to win an Oscar, for her role as the servant “Mammy” in “Gone With the Wind.” (McDaniel’s escort to the 1940 Oscars, F.P. Yober, and her agent, William Meiklejohn, also make an extremely brief cameo.)
Jake Picking as Rock Hudson, one of Hollywood’s biggest stars throughout the 1950s and ’60s and an Oscar-nominee for the 1956 film “Giant.”
Jim Parsons as Henry Willson, the powerful talent agent and sexual predator known for launching the careers of Hollywood’s biggest male stars, including Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter.
Anthony Coons as television star Guy Madison, a client of Henry Willson.
Samuel Caleb Walker as Rory Calhoun, another of Henry Willson’s clients. Calhoun starred with Marilyn Monroe in the back-to-back films “How to Marry a Millionaire” and “River of No Return.”
Michelle Krusiec as Anna May Wong, a Chinese American film star throughout the 1920s and ’30 who was infamously snubbed for the lead role in “The Good Earth” due to censorship regulations barring interracial relationships in film.
Joe Marinelli as “The Good Earth” director Sidney Franklin.
Timothy Dvorak as Irving Thalberg, producer of “The Good Earth,” “Mutiny on the Bounty” and “Grand Hotel” known as “The Boy Wonder” for his youthful appearance and ability to package hit films.
Camille Natta as Luise Rainer, the German-born actress who was given the leading role in “The Good Earth” over Anna May Wong and went on to win an Oscar for the part.
Fred Grandy as English actor C. Aubrey Smith, who appears in a brief flashback to the 1938 Oscars as a presenter. Grandy is best known as Gopher on “The Love Boat.”
Frank Crim as Mickey Cohen, a notorious mobster who is hired by Henry Willson in the series.
Daniel London as “The Philadelphia Story” and “My Fair Lady” director George Cukor, the unofficial head of Hollywood’s gay subculture.
Billy Boyd as English playwright Noel Coward, a guest at Cukor’s party.
Paget Brewster as Tallulah Bankhead, Broadway star and rumored lover of Hattie McDaniel.
Katie McGuinness as “Gone With the Wind” star Vivien Leigh.
Darren Richardson as Broadway composer and songwriter Cole Porter, a client of Ernie’s gas station.
Carrie Gibson as film director Dorothy Arzner, another client of Ernie’s gas station.
Aidan Bristow as George Hurrell, the legendary Hollywood photographer who shoots Camille and Jack for “Meg.”
Harriet Harris as First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Daniel Hagen as an actor who portrays film censor Joseph Breen in the film within the show.
Holly Kaplan as feared Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (previously portrayed by Judy Davis on Murphy’s “Feud.”)
Mitch Eakins as actor (and father of future “Betwitched” star Elizabeth Montgomery) Robert Montgomery, host of the 1948 Oscars.
Dan Sachoff as Fredric March, two-time Oscar-winning actor and Best Picture presenter at the 1948 Oscars.
Rachel Emerson as Rosalind Russell, a Best Actress nominee at the 1948 Oscars for “Mourning Becomes Electra.”
Ashley Wood as Loretta Young, the actual winner of Best Actress at the 1948 Oscars for her role in “The Farmer’s Daughter.”
Marie Oldenbourg as “Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman” star Susan Hayward, a Best Actress nominee at the 1948 Oscars.
Brett Holland as actor, dancer and future California senator George Murphy, a presenter at the 1948 Oscars.
David Gilchrist as “How Green Was My Valley” star Donald Crisp, presenter of Best Director at the 1948 Oscars.
Michael Saltzman as Oscar-winner Ernest Borgnine, who presents Best Supporting Actor in “Hollywood’s” version of the 1948 Oscars. (Olivia de Havilland presented the trophy at the real-life ceremony, but the last time she was portrayed in a Ryan Murphy series, it resulted in a lawsuit.)
Rock Hudson and Anna May Wong aren’t the only 1940s stars who stop by