EXCLUSIVE: Game Change and The Butler screenwriter Danny Strong has been tapped to script a Disney remake of the beloved musical Oliver! which has Thomas Kail, a Tony winner for Hamilton, directing. Marc Platt (La La Land) and Cube Vision’s Jeff Kwatinetz and Ice Cube (Straight Outta Compton) are producing for the Walt Disney Co. While publicists came forth saying that it was a musical version of a public domain title Oliver Twist, all those who Deadline spoke with said, ‘it’s basically a remake of Oliver!”
Charles Dickens’ classic Oliver Twist chronicles the journey of an orphan boy who escapes the harsh conditions of a workhouse and falls in with a group of young thieves overseen by the villainous Fagin — “the receiver of stolen goods” — who will be portrayed by Ice Cube.
Oliver! is the beloved musical of both stage and screen based on Lionel Bart’s take on the Dickens novel as will the Disney movie. The soundtrack became a bestseller with favorites as “Who Will Buy?,” “Consider Yourself” and “I’d Do Anything.” The original film won four Academy Awards including for Best Picture and Best Director. Oliver! debuted in London in 1960 before moving to Broadway where it won a Tony in 1963 for Best Original Score.
The 1968 film adaptation directed by Carol Reed and starring Mark Lester, Oliver Reed and Jack Wild, won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director and for its soundtrack. The re-imagined Oliver! features a cross-genre soundtrack that will include hip-hop.
Disney’s EVP of Production, Tendo Nagenda is overseeing the project for the studio.
Strong, who began his career as a character actor on the hit series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Gilmore Girls, burst onto the screenwriting scene with 2008’s award-winning HBO film Recount, then garnered an Emmy for 2012’s Game Change and followed that with 2013’s The Butler directed by Lee Daniels. He co-wrote the final two Hunger Games movies, and, with Daniels, co-created the Emmy-winning musical drama Empire for Fox.
Last year he made his directorial debut with Rebel in the Rye, the J.D. Salinger biopic which he also wrote, and that premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. A self-confessed “musical theatre nerd,” Strong has recently finished a new book for Chess, the 1988 Tim Rice/ABBA London hit, which will run February 14-18 at the Kennedy Center.
Platt is the the king of the modern-day musical. He was the producer behind the Oscar nominated musical La La Land and the Oscar nominated drama Bridge of Spies. He also produced Mary Poppins Returns and is producing Aladdin for Disney. He is also producing the feature film version of Wicked. In TV, he produced Grease Live! and A Christmas Story Live.
Cube originally targeted a musical remake of Oliver Twist. He has proven himself as an actor, writer, director and producer with both commercial and critical fare such as the successful Ride Along franchise as well as the critical favorite Straight Outta Compton.
Strong is repped by The Gotham Group, CAA and Jackoway Tyerman.