After two and a half years of negotiations were completed earlier this year, 20th Century Fox is at last moving forward with its remake of Guys And Dolls. The studio has set Danny Strong to write the script adaptation. Strong scripted the final two installments of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, after scripting Lee Daniels’ The Butler and adapting the Dan Brown Da Vinci Code sequel The Lost Symbol. This is the project based on Damon Runyon’s short stories that captured the rogue gangsters and gamblers of the 1920s and 1930s, which starred Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra. Over the years, those interested included Bob Fosse, Baz Luhrmann, and Hugh Jackman, and I reported earlier this year that the studio was intrigued by the potential pairing of Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, though there is no shortage of actors who want this. First, of course, they need a script.
Fox just turned Samuel Goldwyn’s The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty into the Ben Stiller-directed remake with Goldwyn’s son, Sam Jr and grandson John Goldwyn among the producers. They will be the producers of Guys And Dolls.
In the musical, Nathan Detroit (Sinatra) has a town full of captive gamblers and wants to set up a floating crap game but needs money to do it. He bets his pal Sky Masterson (Brando) that Sky can’t get the wholesome Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons) — who runs a mission — to go with him to Havana. Frank Loesser wrote the music and lyrics, and Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows wrote the book. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical when it premiered in 1950, and won the 1951 Pulitzer for Drama, until the troubles Burrows was having with the House Un-American Activities Committee caused the Trustees of Columbia University to veto the selection. Guys And Dolls was first turned into the 1955 movie with classic Loesser songs included “Luck Be A Lady”, and “Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Boat”. Deals were completed with the various estates including Samuel Goldwyn, Frank Loesser, Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling.
The Strong hire marks the first real creative momentum on a project that long has captivated Hollywood. Years ago, it looked like Harvey Weinstein was getting the rights, with his Chicago exec producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron producing the film. Thesps from Russell Crowe to Vin Diesel, Hugh Jackman and others all tossed their hats into the ring to play the leads. Trouble was, Jo Loesser, the widow of songwriter Frank Loesser, never found a deal to her liking and declined to sign over the rights until years later. Strong is repped by CAA and Sweeney Entertainment.