EXCLUSIVE: With James Bond postponed because of MGM’s woes, Sam Mendes has firmed the next two projects he intends to direct. Following a successful reading of the first act of the stage musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in New York last week, Mendes has committed himself to direct the musical production that will shoot for a holiday 2011 premiere in London. A move to Broadway will follow.
Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman will continue writing songs and David Greig will complete the book and a designer is being hired to construct the elaborate chocolate factory. While that goes on, Mendes will squeeze in a feature. I’m told he plans to direct On Chesil Beach, and that he is having discussions with Carey Mulligan to play the female lead in the Focus Features adaptation of the Ian McEwan novella. The author is scripting the drama, which takes place in the UK in 1963 and revolves around two repressed virgins in their early twenties whose attempt to consummate ends badly. Their futile attempt at lovemaking leads to doubt and recriminations. Mendes and Pippa Harris are producing.
Mendes is bullish enough that the film will happen that he has informed Disney he should no longer be considered to direct The Great and Powerful Oz. But Mendes remains committed to the Bond film and intends to direct it once the MGM ownership situation gets sorted out.
Mendes’ commitment to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a boost for one of the signature projects for the Warner Bros stage arm Warner Theatricals. I’d always heard that part of the studio’s motivation for the 2005 film remake was to curry favor with the estate of Roald Dahl and make the stage musical possible. Even though Dahl adapted his book into the 1971 film Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, he didn’t care for the original. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is being produced by Mendes and his Neal Street Productions cohort Caro Newling, along with Kevin McCormick. Caro and Mendes formerly ran Donmar Warehouse and their recent stage productions include Red, which is nominated for 7 Tony Awards and has won the Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Awards for Best Play.