Robert Evans Stage Play Stays In The Broadway Picture…Hopefully

Christian Camargo, 'The Kid Stays In The Picture', London 2017 Johan Persson

EXCLUSIVE; Update with Complicité response  Two years ago, a West End staging of a new play based on Hollywood producer Robert Evans’ classic Hollywood memoir The Kid Stays In The Picture seemed all but certain for an imminent transfer to Broadway. Strong reviews, a sold-out run, rampant press rumors of a transfer, a name director in Simon McBurney, the stateside-friendly subject matter, the direct involvement of Evans himself and London’s Royal Court Theatre’s then-recent record of well-received New York transfers (Constellations, Jerusalem, Enron, to name a few) combined to make the Hollywood tale seem like a perfect Broadway baby.

Then, nothing.

Well, nothing but rumors, and, given the book’s troubled stage adaptation history, for understandable reason. An earlier adaptation of Evans’ memoir had spectacularly flamed out, with a prominent playwright – Jon Robin Baitz – and director – Richard Eyre – bolting from the project. Reports suggested even Evans himself was ready to walk, at one point seeming, indirectly, to liken the project to self-aggrandizing dinner theater.

The project was announced in 2010 and was abandoned in 2011.

In 2017, though, the Royal Court staged an entirely new adaptation of Evans’ memoir, with a heavy-hitting producing team that included Once producers Patrick Milling Smith, Barbara Broccoli and Brian Carmody, along with Michael G. Wilson (a partner with Broccoli in operating the James Bond franchise), and the revered Royal Court Theatre in association with the esteemed experimental theater company Complicité.

Evans also got a producing credit, and seemed to fully approve of McBurney’s multi-media approach. He told Vanity Fair in 2017, “It’s not a play. It’s not a drama. It’s not a musical. It’s a trip . . .”

McBurney, a successful actor and director, is the co-founder of Complicité. His New York stagings include a many-starred 2002 revival of  Brecht’s Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (cast included Al Pacino, Steve Buscemi, Billy Crudup, Charles Durning, Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, Chazz Palminteri, Tony Randall and the great stage actress Linda Emond) and a much-discussed, well-reviewed 2008 Broadway production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons starring John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Patrick Wilson and the reason for the “much discussed,” Katie Holmes.

McBurney, though, emerged the real star of All My Sons. Wrote The New York Times: “the British director Simon McBurney might as well be downstage center at all times, stealing each and every scene from his human props.”

McBurney directed and co-wrote, with James Yeatman, the latest Kid adaptation (Evans got a “based on the memoir” credit), with Anna Fleischle designing the set. The cast featured, as Evans at various points in the producer’s life, Danny Huston (son of John Huston, who starred in one of Evans’ greatest film productions, Chinatown; Christian Camargo; and Heather Burns (the actress from Manchester By The Sea, playing cross-gender with slicked hair as Evans, also played Ali MacGraw and a Rosemary’s Baby-era Mia Farrow, complete with that “very in” Vidal Sassoon hairstyle). Max Casella played, among others, Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo and Robert Towne, while Ajay Naidu took on Roman Polanski, Darryl F. Zanuck, and Evans’ former collaborator – now Deadline columnist – Peter Bart.

All have been visible and on-the-go since: Huston on HBO’s Succession, Camargo on BBC’s The City and the City, and Netflix’s Wormwood, Heather Burns’ on NBC’s Blindspot and Amazon’s Sneaky Pete.

Robert Evans Shutterstock

And in addition to directing and his Complicité theater company work, McBurney has a busy acting career, never more so than of late with Amazon Prime’s Carnival Row and Showtime’s The Loudest Voice, in which he played the central character of Rupert Murdoch.

And those full schedules – particularly, I’d guess, McBurney’s – seem to be why Broadway hasn’t gotten a look at The Kid Stays In The Picture. Last week, following Evans’ death, Deadline reached out to several of the lead producers to see if the stage play would survive its name source.

The answer was a either a qualified yes or a ‘no idea’, with the reason for the show’s current, ongoing absence from Broadway being the jammed schedules of the creative team – no names specified by producers, most likely to avoid pointing fingers, but “creative team” or “artistic team” typically refers to author, director, designers and sometimes cast.

A spokesperson for McBurney’s Complicité said, “As far as I’m aware there aren’t any plans in the pipeline at the moment but the production is lead produced by The Royal Court so these decisions lie with them.” (The Royal Court did not respond to Deadline’s queries.)

But through a spokesman, Broccoli, long an overseer of the multi-billion-dollar James Bond franchise, indicated that the project is “still alive,” that she remains connected to it and that the “future plan for the production is still being discussed.” The reason for the delay, she confirmed, is due to the availability of the creative team.

In an email, producer Patrick Milling Smith indicated “schedules” as the reason for the lack of a transfer to date, but that he hopes to make an announcement “in the future.”

As for Evans, Milling Smith recalled the producer’s “legendary” life. “It was such a rewarding adventure to put his story on stage at The Royal Court in London,” said the producer. “I’m very thankful that that happened while Bobby was still with us to witness the great response and reviews. We’ve not brought it to Broadway yet due to schedules, but I very much hope we can give you a date in the future. Such a great story and McBurney created such a great ride. ‘A trip,’ as Evans described it.”

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