By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act August 28, 2012 at 9:59PM
This is news to me, even though it was apparently announced last fall; although a Google search revealed zero links to sites that picked up on the news - other than the site on which it originates.
So there I was researching for another post - specifically, in light of the Sparkle remake currently in theaters, I thought I'd take a look at a short list of other somewhat similar 1970s black cinema classics that could very well also be attractive enough to a studio as potential remake project.
On my list of films was 1975's Mahogany, the Berry Gordy-directed drama which starred a post-Lady Sings The Blues Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams.
Mahogany told the story of an aspiring designer from the slums of Chicago, who puts herself through fashion school in the hopes of becoming one of the world's top designers. However, her ambition leads her to Rome, spurring a choice between the man she loves or her newfound success.
In considering the possibility of a studio considering a Mahogany remake, I did some research - research that eventually led me to the website of de Passe-Jones Entertainment, the production company belonging to former Motown executive and now TV and film producer, Suzanne de Passe and Phillip Madison Jones.
On their website was a press release which stated the following:
Newly formed de Passe-Jones Entertainment principals Suzanne de Passe and Madison Jones (Currently producing the Martin Luther King biopic with Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks) have obtained the rights to the Diana Ross Billy Dee Williams classic MAHOGANY, from the film’s director and rights holder Mr. Berry Gordy.
Naturally, I immediately dug through the S&A archives to see if this was something we'd covered already. But I found nothing. Then I performed a Google search to see if this was being reported anywhere else, and also found nothing.
The press release, which was much longer than what I have above, wasn't dated, so I had to do a bit more digging to eventually learn that it was announced in September of 2011 - almost a year ago.
It's odd that no one seems to have picked this up; even we apparently missed it. Or maybe de Passe-Jones Entertainment didn't shout the news from rooftops.
I then remembered that, just about a month later, after the Mahogany press release was posted on their website, it was announced that Suzanne de Passe signed a 3-year "first-look" deal with Universal Pictures, via her de Passe-Jones Entertainment production company; basically, Universal has the right of "first refusal" on projects de Passe Jones proposes to develop. And if Universal, after "first-looking" at the proposed project, isn't interested and decline to back it, then de Passe Jones can offer it up to another studio, or interested company.
Given the timing of both events (the announcement of the remake and the deal with Universal), I'd be willing to bet that the project is likely being housed at Universal Pictures right now.
The press release goes on to say:
The production team is in the process of seeking a writer, or writer/director, to bring to the project. de Passe-Jones and Amber [Entertainment] will be jointly financing 50% of the development and production thought to be in the $25 million dollar range.
At the tail end of the release were these quotes from involved parties:
“We are excited to bring a remake of this classic film to a whole new audience and are grateful to Mr. Gordy for his trust” said Madison Jones. “There are so few female driven stories for African American actors and this is great material, with issues that are as relevant today as they were in the 70’s”, said Suzanne de Passe. “The heart of Mahogany is a story about making your dreams come true, and that is as relevant and urgent today as ever. And with platforms such Project Runway, BET, MTV, VH1 and the like, the capacity to deliver and expand the film’s audience has never been stronger”, said Ileen Maisel and Mark Ordesky [Amber Entertainment].
It's worth noting that in June of this year, Wendy Williams Productions and de Passe-Jones Entertainment partnered up to jointly develop and distribute original projects for both the big and small screens; the first project announced under that agreement was a TV movie/series based on Star Jones' novel Satan's Sisters.
The original Mahogany produced the hit theme song, Do You Know Where You’re Going To.
Written by Michael Masser and Gerald Goffin, the track was nominated for the Best Original Song Academy Award.
So, a Mahogany remake is definitely in the works; now we know. It's just a matter of where it currently stands, when we'll eventually see it, and, most curiously, who will star in it.
A few of actresses have expressed interest in playing the lead role over the years, if a remake were to ever come to pass (this was even before de Passe-Jones announced its plans for a remake).