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Might Spike Lee Direct The Recently-Announced Contemporary 'Porgy And Bess' Film?

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act April 12, 2013 at 11:26AM

An addendum to last week's news that a "re-envisioned" contemporary film version of Porgy And Bess is in development, with producers Mike Medavoy and Bobby Geisler at the helm, and the Gershwin family and estate of lyricist DuBose Heyward, directly involved, which they are hoping will be "a lot better" than the 1959 film starring Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge, directed by Otto Preminger.
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Porgy And Bess

An addendum to last week's news that a "re-envisioned" contemporary film version of Porgy And Bess is in development, with producers Mike Medavoy and Bobby Geisler at the helm, and the Gershwin family and estate of lyricist DuBose Heyward, directly involved, which they are hoping will be "a lot better" than the 1959 film starring Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge, directed by Otto Preminger.

No writer and director have been announced yet, with Marc George Gershwin, nephew of the Gershwin brothers, stating that “We’re confident that [producer Mike Medavoy] is going to able to find the right director and writer.

Spike Lee

What I failed to report at that time is that Spike Lee has long been trying to bring a film adaptation of Porgy And Bess to the big screen, but hasn't been successful, although he seems to have gotten close as recently as last year, when he revealed in an interview with The Playlist (while doing press for Red Hook Summer) that talks with the Gershwin estate fell apart at the very last minute after lots of "back and forth."

Although he did later say that he was still negotiating to bring Porgy And Bess to the screen.

"That's still in the works. As a film not a play [...] Yeah I want to make it, but I'm in long discussions with both estates [...] There have been musical elements in my films, but I've been wanting to do a straight up musical for many, many years," he said, adding that the rights issues were "very tricky."

That interview took place last summer. News of the new film adaptation was announced last week. The obvious question here is whether Spike's negotiations with the Gershwins overlap these new developments with producers Mike Medavoy and Bobby Geisler. Or if the Gershwins are no longer interested in negotiating with Spike on bringing the film to life, and have moved on to Medavoy and Geisler, who clearly have been granted rights, as development of the film begins. 

Might Spike be chosen to direct the film? 

The fact that he'd been trying to get the project off the ground for as long as 10 years (as he said in The Playlist interview), is interesting, and I'd like to know what all the negotiating included, especially over such a long period of time. What was Spike asking the estates for, and/or why were the estates seemingly hesitant to grant him the rights he needed to get the film produced?

What has been all the "back an forth" in these negotiations?

If Spike isn't chosen to direct the film, whenever the director is announced, it'll be yet another lost project for him (from his wanting to make a Jackie Robinson movie, to one on the life of James Brown most recently).

I wonder if he's even on their short list. 

If Spike has addressed these new developments anywhere, I'd love to know. I haven't read or heard anything.

This article is related to: Spike Lee


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