Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Billy Elliot film?

A good story concept can sure get a lot of mileage in the entertainment world. Nearly a decade after Academy Award-nominated “Billy Elliot” hit theaters, we’ve seen the screenplay’s adapted into “Billy Elliot: The Musical” in London and on Broadway. Now, its studio is eager to pull a “Hairspray” and bring the musical to the big screen – so, why is director Stephen Daldry hesitant about once again dusting off Billy’s ballet shoes?

Daldry — who has been nominated for a best director Oscar for “The Reader,” and earned his first nomination for “Billy” — directed the musical version of the tale of a boy raised by his testosterone-fueled father, who chooses ballet over boxing. The musical has won over audiences in London, Melbourne and now, New York City. “’Billy Elliot: The Musical’ just opened up in Broadway,” Daldry told MTV recently. “And now we’re going to open that in San Francisco, and take that around the country.”

As fans of “Hairspray” know, that John Waters project has traveled the unusual road of going from cult movie to musical to movie-musical; ditto for “The Producers.” Daldry revealed to us that with those recent successes in mind, the studio is hoping to bring “Billy” back to the screen for yet another twirl.

“You know,” he sighed. “That’s exactly what Universal is hassling me about. Now we’ll be doing ‘Billy Elliot: The Musical: The Movie’!”

The only problem, however, is that the three-time Oscar nominated filmmaker isn’t so sure that he wants to revisit Billy’s tale anytime soon. “I don’t know,” he shrugged. “I think probably not; but they’re really pushing for it.”

As 2007’s “Hairspray” has shown, transitioning a project from the big screen to the big stage and back again can prove to be a successful enterprise – in fact, a sequel to the “Hairspray” musical movie is currently in the works. Although the original 1988 version of “Hairspray” was only a moderate success, the Broadway musical was a smash hit with both critics and audiences. “The Producers” similarly turned a 1968 Mel Brooks flick into one of the biggest musicals of all time, then filmed a version with stage stars Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane.

Even with the successful track record of such musical-to-movie adaptations, Daldry is skeptical about continuing the “Billy Elliot” sensation. Even though, you’d think, all the potential money to be made might change his mind.

“Well you know,” he grinned, “you’d be surprised…we’ll see.”

The original Billy Elliot filmed starred a young Jamie Bell.

Should Billy Elliot slip back into his cinematic dancing shoes? Or is time to let the teenager take five?

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