BREAKING: Looks like Universal Pictures has won the battle for the next film to be directed by Oscar-winning The King’s Speech helmer Tom Hooper. The dealmaking has started for Hooper to direct Les Miserables, a full-blown musical adaptation of the Cameron Mackintosh-produced perennial stage hit. This is the first film he’s begun negotiations on since winning the Oscar, but insiders in Hooper’s camp stopped short of saying it would definitively be his next film. I hear that’s how it will work out.
Mackintosh is producing with Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, and Bill Nicholson has written the script. The intention is to begin production before year’s end, somewhere in Europe. After the success of The King’s Speech — a $13 million budget film that could reach $450 million worldwide gross when it’s through — Hooper had been widely courted for his next slot. The Weinstein Company tempted him with Tulip Fever, and I’m told there was talk of an adaptation of Macbeth, among others. Hooper was tempted instead to film the musical adaptation of the 1862 Victor Hugo novel, the struggle by ex-con Jean Valjean to outrun his past and his relentless pursuer Javert. The musical, which opened in London in 1985, features such songs as I Dreamed A Dream, On My Own, and Bring Him Home. It is certainly a different film from Universal’s stage musical foray Mamma Mia! (which made the studio a fortune), but Les Miserables is appealing because it’s a branded musical with a reasonable price tag that will attract a strong cast. ICM is making Hooper’s deal.