By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com February 18, 2011 at 2:13AM
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.