EXCLUSIVE: With no Oscarcast to worry about this year, Bill Condon and Larry Mark have had time to set up another musical. I’ve learned that the Dreamgirls duo are turning the Arthur Phillips novel The Song Is You into a music-infused film. Condon will write the script and direct it for Focus Features, in co-production with Random House Films under the deal the publisher has with the specialty house. Mark is producing. Published last year by Random House, The Song Is You is about the unusual relationship that develops between a middle-aged commercials director who fixates on a young woman he hears singing at a bar. Theirs becomes a tenuous romance despite the fact they’ve never met. Mark and Condon became fans of the book, and Focus exec Michael Pruss brought it in. “The book is a story told through music, but there’s a whole other dimension we can bring through film,” Condon tells me.
“This is a guy who has loved music since the moment he was born, who connected music to the big turning points in life and who retreats into music after suffering a trauma. He essentially falls inside his iPod Shuffle, that is the form the film takes. The only emotional connections he makes are dredged up through songs, until he stumbles into the bar and hears a young singer who slowly reawakens something in him. He becomes her guide and she his muse, in a relationship that is carried out through email messages and phone calls. The chance to tell a story through song is the thing that really turns me on.”
Condon first will film a Simon Beaufoy-scripted adaptation of the Paul Torday novel Salmon Fishing In The Yemen and begins shooting in May. He’s also working on HBO’s Tilda, that new comedy from Cynthia Mort about “a powerful female online showbiz journalist with a no-holds-barred style”. (Hmm, sounds like Nikki Finke. If so, then I’m her nice-guy sidekick…) It’s his first attempt at series writing and is also set to direct.
Condon will also finally get to direct his long-gestating Richard Pryor film starring Marlon Wayans. Condon says the film “is happening just because Adam said, ‘I want to see this happen, I want to help’” and used a “put” in his Sony deal to get the pic made. Condon originally developed the Pryor film for his Dreamgirls star Eddie Murphy, but the economics never worked. Wayans doesn’t have the star wattage, but Condon told me he’ll be a revelation. “Marlon isn’t imprinted on everybody’s brain, but the movie takes the form of a concert film and I needed someone with a stand-up background. You can’t fake that, it’s genetic. Marlon did a 15-minute test that consisted of three long scenes. He captured an essence of Pryor that was amazing to all of us.” About the film itself, Condon said, “There is humor, but this is about a guy who accidentally set himself on fire, so it will have its darker moments as well.”