EXCLUSIVE: Tony-winning M. Butterfly playwright David Henry Hwang has been set by Disney to write Hunchback, a live-action musical adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel. Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz will write the music. Mandeville is producing along with Josh Gad. I had heard that Gad, a star of the Mandeville-produced blockbuster Beauty and the Beast, might play the lead character, but insiders at the studio said no casting is solid at this point.
Hwang’s other work includes the plays Chinglish, Yellow Face, Kung Fu, Golden Child and The Dance and the Railroad, and Broadway musicals including the Elton John & Tim Rice collaboration Aida, the revival of Flower Drum Song, and Disney’s animated Tarzan. M. Butterfly was revived on Broadway in 2017 in a Julie Taymor-directed production starring Clive Owen. Hwang’s collaboration with composer Jeanine Tesori, Soft Power, opened last May in Los Angeles. He is America’s most produced living opera librettist as well.
Three-time Oscar winner Schwartz’s credits include Wicked, Godspell and Pippin. Eight-time Oscar winner Menken’s credits include Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and the original score for the 1996 Disney animated film The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
The new film will pull from that 1996 animated film and the Hugo novel but not the stage production that Schwartz and Menken collaborated on in Europe. David Hoberman, who runs Mandeville with Todd Lieberman, has been fixated on a live-action Hunchback for over 30 years going back to when he was Disney film president. An early attempt led to the animated film and another resulted in a limited TV series on ABC. Now it has come back around as a feature film, and while it is early and not on the Disney release calendar, Hunchback has some of the most storied players from the stage and musical realms.
Gad teamed with Menken & Schwartz on a huge Universal deal several years ago for an original musical with Jeremy Garelick.
Hwang is repped by Paradigm; Schwartz is attorney Nancy Rose; Menken is Kraft-Engel Management and Rick Kunis, and Gad is WME and Lighthouse Management & Media.