EXCLUSIVE: Graham King’s GK Films has won a spirited auction for feature film rights to the Broadway musical Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. Book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice will write the script. King and GK Films partner Tim Headington will produce. The deal was described as “groundbreaking;” I’m told it was a substantial seven-figures. The play tells the story of how Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi went from blue-collar wrong side of the track origins to become an American pop sensation, selling 175 million records worldwide before they were 30 years old. The play has done over $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales since its 2005 Broadway opening, when it was directed by Des McAnuff and produced by Dodger Theatricals. It won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical and the cast album won the Grammy. When it transplanted to London, Jersey Boys won the 2009 Olivier Award for Best Musical.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, chased the movie rights to the musical, which were brokered by ICM’s Jeff Berg, The Four Seasons’ rep Peter Bennett and attorney Ken Ziffren. The film will use the music and lyrics of the group’s standards, including Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Rag Doll, Oh What A Night, and Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You. Rumors had DreamWorks pursuing it for Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman’s Playtone chasing it, and Warner Bros pursuing for producer Donald De Line, and Fox and Peter Chernin. Speculation is that GK had an edge because of its close relationship with Martin Scorsese, a hero of the group’s leader, Valli. But I’m told that Scorsese isn’t involved now. Though, how cool might that be?
Jersey Boys becomes the latest of several hits that are percolating as movies. The genre got a giant shot in the arm thanks to Mamma Mia!, which grossed north of $600 million worldwide for Universal Pictures and Playtone. Playtone is separately developing a screen version of the Green Day musical American Idiot, and Universal is working on a film based on In the Heights, and has started progress on a movie version of its stage blockbuster Wicked.
GK just produced the Ben Affleck-directed The Town, wrapped the Johnny Depp-Angelina Jolie-starrer The Tourist and the Gore Verbinski-directed Rango, is in production on the Martin Scorsese-directed Hugo Cabret and is readying a film about Queen singer Freddie Mercury that will star Sacha Baron Cohen. King saw Jersey Boys around the time that it opened, and he has been chasing the movie rights incessantly ever since. As is common with cash-cow musicals, this one stayed off the market for years. That changed six weeks ago, when Berg and Ziffren informed suitors that screen rights were up for grabs.
“Jersey Boys is one of the most electrifying stage shows any of us has ever seen and it has all the ingredients to become a big commercial hit movie,” King said. “So to now be collaborating with the whole team, Frankie, Bob, Marshall and Rick, to bring that magic to the big screen is just a wonderful dream come true,” he said.
Said Valli and Gaudio in a statement: “We are extremely excited about the passion and commitment expressed by GK Films to take Jersey Boys to another level. Graham King has been a believer from day one. We are in good hands.”