The just-done-broke news that Rob Marshall will direct Nine, a live action rendition of Maury Yeston’s stage musical rendition of Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2, for The Weinstein Company is cause for both delight and concern. The delight comes in knowing that I’ll finally get to see an actual production of Nine, which swiped the 1982 Best Musical Tony away from some obscure, Motown-inspired tuner called Dreamgirls. That incarnation, directed by Tommy Tune and starring Raul Julia as creatively frustrated filmmaker Guido Contini, is still considered the best, though the 2003 revival toplined by a smoldering Antonio Banderas (with support from Jane Krakowski, Mary Stuart Masterson and the great Chita Rivera) wowed the Broadway community enough to snag the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical.
Cue "concern". Since we’re just four years removed from that production, you’d think that Marshall would simply transfer that vision to the screen as he essentially did with Chicago (the creative heavy lifting on that one came courtesy of screenwriter Bill Condon, who heavily reworked the book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse), especially since the cast was rife with film and television veterans who look just fine in close-up (I’ve long contended that Krakowski has the stuff to be a bona fide movie star). But the predilection for stunt casting that annoyed some with Chicago – I’m still a fan, though repeat viewings expose its many shortcomings – appears to be back in full force. If you’re a fan of the musical, you may want to steel yourself for this (i.e. get a trash can or something that ain’t porous handy).
The early favorite for Guido? Ewan McGregor.
Look, I love Ewan in almost everything (save for Stay), but he doesn’t exactly seem like ideal casting for a role that’s been filled in the past by Marcello Mastroianni, Raul Julia and Antonio Banderas. When they finally get around to remaking Guys and Dolls, Ewan is my first choice for Sky Masterson. But as an Italian filmmaker? Not so much.
Arthur Kopit will get the opportunity to expand his book into a movie, though other writers are lined up to polish his pass. Expect a late 2008 or sometime in 2009 release for this one.