The #MeToo era is just the right time to be doing an eight-episode series about the complicated/creative/tortured relationship between dancer-choreographer Bob Fosse and dancer/muse/wife Gwen Verdon, their daughter and the producers of FX’s Fosse/Verdon told TV critics Monday at TCA.
While the project was being developed, the “incredible explosion of the truth” that began the #MeToo movement suddenly made their project extremely timely, EP Steven Levenson said.
“Our goal is to explore a relationship between these two in an authentic way,” EP Joel Fields told TV critics. The eight-episode series stars Michelle Williams as Verdon and Sam Rockwell as Fosse.
Fosse and Verdon’s daughter, Nicole Fosse, who is a co-EP on the project, said it was “important to tell the truth” and trust viewers would understand the project held a mirror to what was acceptable in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.
Fosse and Verdon married in 1960; they separated in ’71 but remained married until his death.
Fosse/Verdon is based on Sam Wasson’s biography Fosse, detailing the dissipation that ran through Fosse’s life, ending it early, in the late ’80s, en route to a revival of Sweet Charity at the National Theatre in Washington. That includes his charm, brilliance, narcissism, drug use, and the lit cigarette always hanging from his mouth — he reportedly smoked six to seven packs a day, which Sam Rockwell, who plays Fosse, acknowledged to TV critics, was a useful prop.
The FX project also is a nod to Fosse’s loosely autobiographical movie All That Jazz, which he co-wrote and directed.
“We were tasked the telling the story of one who already had told the story of his life as he wanted it told,” Levenson said.
The FX’s project amends that movie to correct the record, reinserting Verdon into a storyline Fosse wrote her out of to a great degree, Levenson explained.
Nicole Fosse described All That Jazz as “a bit of a whitewashed romantic version of his life,” and a “nod to Fellini,” insisting her father never called it autobiographical.
Fosse/Verdon explores their not-necessarily healthy relationship, and the astonishing body of work they created together, and separately. When he died, Verdon took his ashes to scatter off an island where he was living with his girlfriend. Williams described Verdon as someone “always trying to rise above” and be her best at all times.
Marilyn Monroe once said, speaking from personal experience, if Verdon can’t teach you how to dance, “you are rhythm bankrupt with two left feet,” Williams noted.
This is a love story”that may be the “most crystalized” example of what this kind of professional/personal collaboration is like. It features a woman who may have been the “greatest dancer of her generation” and a man who “wanted to be Fred Astaire, but was not allowed to be Fred Astaire” and had to find a way to grapple with who he was when he couldn’t do the thing he wanted to do,” EP Thomas Kail said.
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