EXCLUSIVE: The Divine Miss M. is taking on the great Mae West. HBO Films has put in development Mae West, a movie about the true Hollywood original, with Bette Midler attached to star and executive produce. The project is the brainchild of William Friedkin (The Exorcist), who will direct and executive produce. Broadway heavyweight Harvey Fierstein, who recently penned the book for Tony-winning musical Kinky Boots, is writing the script. Also executive producing is Jerry Weintraub, who executive produced HBO Films’ Emmy-winning Behind The Candelabra. Mae West, based on West’s autobiography Goodness Had Nothing To Do With It, chronicles West’s rise to stardom when she takes New York by storm after writing and starring in her scandalous Broadway show Sex and battles authorities over obscenity charges. Instead of taking the road of a wide-eyed Hollywood ingenue, West forged her own path, writing and starring in her own risqué plays, including her breakthrough Sex, which had her prosecuted and sentenced to 10 days in prison for “corrupting the morals of youth.” The notoriety fueled her career and didn’t stop her from tackling taboo subjects in her next plays, including 1928 hit Diamond Lil, about a racy 1890s woman, which opened the doors to Hollywood for her. West was a late arrival, signing her first movie deal with Paramount at 39, but went on to make a string of hits, becoming one of the highest-grossing stars of the 1930s while still finding ways to push the envelope and keeping studio censors busy. Midler’s career path resembles that of West — she too made a name for herself onstage in New York (she made her Broadway debut in the chorus of Fiddler On The Roof) before segueing to features in her 30s for a successful movie career, which has earned her two Oscar nominations. Midler just started a three-week engagement at the Geffen Playhouse of I’ll Eat You Last after a successful Broadway run. Midler has been earning strong reviews for her portrayal of larger-than-life Hollywood agent Sue Mengers in the one-person play written by John Logan and directed by Joe Mantello.
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