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Colin Firth Again Being Pursued For 'My Fair Lady' Remake; Carey Mulligan Still Attached

by Oliver Lyttelton
February 18, 2011 2:13 AM
9 Comments
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Shooting Won't Start Til 2012, But Rights Issues May Cause More Delays



Colin Firth's had a somewhat curious career trajectory so far. From boy wonder in "Another Country," to your mom's favorite prickly heartthrob in "Pride & Prejudice," to chubby villain in "Shakespeare in Love," to your mom's favorite prickly heartthrob (again) in "Bridget Jones' Diary," to singing dad in "Mamma Mia," he's finally become a bona fide leading man, and A-list star, after last year's brilliant "A Single Man," and the critical and commercial behemoth that "The King's Speech" has become. The actor is about ten days away from picking up a Best Actor Oscar (let's face it, any suspense has gone at this point...), but he's already become firmly in demand.

The actor will next star in the Coen Brothers-scripted remake of con caper "Gambit," and he's got Park Chan-wook's "Stoker" on the horizon, but it's a mark of his new stardom that the actor is now deemed to have enough box office clout that he's now being actively pursued for a role that, even a year ago, studio bosses dismissed him for; Baz Bamigboye reports that Firth is now the top choice to star in the long-in-the-offing remake of the Lerner & Loewe musical "My Fair Lady."

The Emma Thompson-scripted project, set up at Sony, has been in the works for years now: Danny Boyle was originally planning to direct, with Keira Knightley as Eliza Doolittle, but dropped out when he couldn't land Daniel Day-Lewis for the male lead, Professor Henry Higgins. Knightley left too, and names like Joe Wright, Daniel Craig, Anne Hathaway, Scarlett Johansson, Gemma Arterton and Emily Blunt were all connected to the film, until John Madden took on the director's chair, with Carey Mulligan persistently linked to the Doolittle role, and studio bosses backing Hugh Grant over Firth, who was the first choice of both Madden, producer Cameron Mackintosh, and the Lerner & Loewe estate -- to the extent that Madden even briefly quit the project over Grant's casting.

While the film was originally set to go before cameras last summer (going so far as to book up studio space in the UK), it never came together, but now Firth's success in "The King's Speech" has convinced Sony that he's the way to go -- allegedly, bosses now say that the film won't be made unless the actor plays Higgins. Informal talks have been held with both him and Mulligan, who remains attached, and Madden is still seemingly on board to direct.

If they do sign on, it'll still be some time before it goes before cameras, as Mulligan's got a packed schedule for the rest of the year; she's currently filming Steve McQueen's "Shame," and has both the lead role in the Ingmar Bergman adaptation "Through A Glass Darkly" off-Broadway, and Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" (assuming it's going ahead, which it seems to be) taking her through the end of the year. Therefore, Bamigboye suggests that filming won't get underway until May 2012 at the earliest.

However, there's still one more hurdle to overcome, this time of a legal nature. The rights to the film have become somewhat entangled over the years, with CBS Films owning some of them, after backing the original stage version of the musical. Some of these elements will revert to the Lerner & Loewe estate later this year, but even that won't clear things up entirely, as Thompson's screenplay also includes aspects from the preface and sequel to George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion," the play on which the musical was based.

It doesn't seem an impossible legal mess to untangle, but Sony won't green light the film until the issues are resolved -- another likely reason for further delay on the project. Assuming everything gets cleared up, and the actors sign on, it looks like we may finally see "My Fair Lady" back on the big screens some time in 2013.

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9 Comments

  • KC | September 8, 2011 11:58 AMReply

    LOL Gautam, it is a "Musical" so yes, the singing should matter. Otherwise it should just be a remake of Pygmalion, which would bring in less of an audience because it is the lesser-known original. Audrey was not told that she would be dubbed by Marni Nixon until after filming/recording and the whole controversy about casting Audrey over Julie Andrews has lingered for 40+ years. Dubbing in this day and age, for this role, isn't the smartest option in my opinion. I don't know if any of these actresses can sing and hit high notes, but this role is one that will make audiences love (if done right, which is difficult) or hate you (from both Julie's and Audrey's camps, for ruining the original).

  • Myles Garcia | March 1, 2011 8:02 AMReply

    They say shooting won't start until as early as May 2012. I say, make it more like August. Don't forget that the Summer Olympics are happening in London late July-early August 2012...so that'll certainly bump out any major productions that will be happening at the same time--especially if they intend to use actual locations like Covent Garden, etc., Wimpole Street, etc. So the film, if it ever gets made, won't hit theatres until December 2013...so 49 years after the original 1964 version. Can't wait for a new version.

  • Gautam | February 20, 2011 2:11 AMReply

    First of all why are we trying to Remake this classic anyway??
    Of course Colin Firth will be absolutely brilliant as Prof Higgins....can't think of anyone else.
    Hugh Grant is fantastic too but I can't quite see him as Prof Higgins!
    But Carey Mulligan as Eliza? NOooooooooooo!!
    She is a good actress but not for this role.......
    I feel Natelie Portman or Emily Blunt are much better choices& who cares about the singing! in the original film,it was not Audrey Hepburn's singing,either,right??

  • katsat | February 19, 2011 9:13 AMReply

    Hugh Laurie would be great but he doesn't have the movie box office clout. TV success is not the same thing.

  • Big H | February 19, 2011 9:13 AMReply

    Does this film have to be remade at all?

  • amy | February 19, 2011 6:27 AMReply

    I love Colin Firth, but don't really think he's best for this role.
    First of all, why remake this at all. But if they must, Hugh Laurie would be perfect and I think Hugh Grant would also add a bit of humor. I don't like Cary Mulligan for Eliza at all. They should have stuck with Keira Knightley, who would undergo the transformation beautifully, and can sing to boot.

  • sp | February 18, 2011 5:28 AMReply

    Please, give it to Anne Hathaway. She did a great impression of Mary Poppins & Judy Garland's Dorothy from Wizard of Oz on SNL. But, I do hear Gemma Arterton has a lovely singing voice. Can Carey Mulligan actually carry a tune ?

    Why can't movie producers hire actors that have singing talent. No, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Marion Collitard, Renee Zellweger have no vocal talent whatsoever.

  • Madison | February 18, 2011 2:44 AMReply

    Was Hugh Laurie ever in the mix for this? Love Colin Firth, but seems like Laurie would be the ideal Higgins.

  • Blair | February 18, 2011 2:39 AMReply

    Poor Emma w/ all these legal woes....hopefully we'll get to see MFL & Effie sometime soon.

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