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Neil LaBute May Direct Film Version Of Stephen Sondheim's Musical 'Company'

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist November 25, 2010 at 2:46AM

For a man who's long been a giant in the field of musical theater, it's somewhat surprising that Stephen Sondheim hasn't been more of a feature on the big screen. Sure, there was his score for Alain Resnais' "Stavisky," a few original songs for Warren Beatty's "Dick Tracy" and co-writing the script for the cult murder mystery "The Last of Sheila," but adaptations of his work have so far been restricted to the justifiably forgotten 1977 film of "A Little Night Music," and 2007's "Sweeney Todd."
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For a man who's long been a giant in the field of musical theater, it's somewhat surprising that Stephen Sondheim hasn't been more of a feature on the big screen. Sure, there was his score for Alain Resnais' "Stavisky," a few original songs for Warren Beatty's "Dick Tracy" and co-writing the script for the cult murder mystery "The Last of Sheila," but adaptations of his work have so far been restricted to the justifiably forgotten 1977 film of "A Little Night Music," and 2007's "Sweeney Todd."

Not that people haven't tried: a film of "Into The Woods" starring Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan and Susan Sarandon came close to production at Columbia in the late '90s, Sondheim and William Goldman wrote an original musical for film, "Singing Out Loud," for Rob Reiner in the early '90s and Sam Mendes hired Aaron Sorkin to adapt "Follies" a few years back. Now, it seems like another version could be in the very early stages of development, and from a somewhat unlikely source.

Writer-director Neil LaBute was launching his latest play, "In A Forest, Dark and Deep," which will in open in London with "Lost" star Matthew Fox and Olivia Williams in the spring, and told a press conference that he's had discussions with Sondheim about a possible film version of his 1970 musical "Company."

Theater blogger Mark Shenton quotes LaBute at the press conference as calling the play ""Carnal Knowledge" with songs," which isn't a bad analogy -- the episodic piece follows a thirty-something commitment-phobe and his various romantic travails, as well as those of his coupled-up friends. As such, as one staff member put it during an internal discussion, it wouldn't have been a bad match for early LaBute, whose first few films, like "Your Friends and Neighbors," are a little more well-drawn than his sometimes gimmicky, empty stage plays.

Unfortunately, LaBute's recent film work has been, at best, baffling, and at worst, unwatchable -- from his rightfully-derided remake of "The Wicker Man" to the anonymous Chris Rock vehicle "Death at a Funeral," LaBute in current form is in no way suited to adapt what is the favorite show of a number of Playlist staffers.

Still, it seems like it's very early days, and it would appear that it hasn't moved beyond the embryonic stages yet. And maybe LaBute'll be able to get his mojo back with such strong source material -- source material, crucially, written by someone else. If it moves any further, we're sure more news will follow. [The Guardian]

This article is related to: Composers, Broadway Musicals, Neil LaBute, Stephen Sondheim, Company


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