EXCLUSIVE: As Baz Luhrmann readies to direct the untitled Elvis Presley project for Warner Bros, he has secured the long sought after rights to the cult Russian novel The Master and Margarita. Luhrmann has done this in partnership with the rights holders, Svetlana Migunova-Dali (producer of the Russian Academy Award-winning biopic Legend No. 17 and Grace Loh (previously John Cusack’s producing partner). They will produce alongside Luhrmann with Natalia Rogal also producing., The exec producers are Michael Lang, Nevin Shalit, Andrew Fourman and Ellen Goldsmith Vein and Lindsay Williams of the Gotham Group.
This is a passion project for Luhrmann, who will eye it as a possible directorial vehicle.
Considered one of the masterpieces of the 20th century, the Mikhail Bulgakov novel The Master and Margarita is a fantastical and devastating satire of Soviet society, an audacious revision of the stories of Faust and Christ’s Crucifixion, and a love story that spans across space and time. Written in the darkest period of Stalin’s regime and banned during Bulgakov’s lifetime, a censored edition was finally published in the 1960 and instantly became a worldwide literary phenomenon. It has inspired other iconic works, including the Rolling Stones song Sympathy for the Devil and Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. Translated into more than 40 languages, the novel has sold over 100 million copies worldwide and is consistently included on lists of the greatest works of world literature.
“Stretching back almost 20 years, I’ve had an incredible connection with the story of The Master and Margarita and have long sought the rights to this extraordinary book,” says Luhrmann. “I’m thrilled to finally have the opportunity to do an interpretation of this groundbreaking work.”
“It is an absolute dream come true to be collaborating with Baz on The Master and Margarita,” says Migunova-Dali and Loh. “The words of Bulgakov remain as poignant in the world today as nearly a century ago, and we can’t imagine a more brilliant and visionary filmmaker to bring this powerful story to audiences around the world.”
Luhrmann will develop the project through his company, Baz & Co., a joint-venture with Len Blavatnik. Luhrmann and his multiple Oscar-winning production designer wife Catherine Martin have previously partnered with Blavatnik on the creation of the Faena Hotel Miami Beach.
The Broadway musical Moulin Rouge, based on Luhrmann’s groundbreaking, award winning film is the biggest Broadway hit in years, grossing more than $2 million per week as it continues to play to sold out audiences. Lurhmann produced its accompanying album, through his RCA-based label, House of Iona, which debuted #1 on the Billboard chart and recently secured a Grammy nomination for Luhrmann and his fellow album producers (Justin Levine, Matt Stine and Alex Timbers). Next year additional shows will be added in San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, London and Melbourne, Australia.
Luhrmann will start production February in Australia on his untitled Elvis Presley film, which stars Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood‘s Austin Butler and A Beautiful Day in The Neighborhood‘s Tom Hanks as Col Tom Parker.
Luhrmann and Martin are represented by WME; Migunova-Dali and Loh are represented by attorney Linda Lichter of Lichter Grossman Nichols Adler Feldman & Clark.