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

by Oliver Lyttelton
November 25, 2010 2:46 AM
7 Comments
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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]

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7 Comments

  • David Jackson | February 13, 2012 1:04 AMReply

    What about Sondheim's magnificient piece for the Warren Beatty/Diane Keaton movie, "Reds". Goodby for Now is a very moving song, even though the movie did not use lyrics.

  • Neil S. | November 29, 2010 4:06 AMReply

    There is also a film adaptation of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC with Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Rigg, with Hal Prince directing.

  • Rashad | November 27, 2010 12:10 AMReply

    The Wicker Man is a comedy, and a great one at that.

  • Matthew Paul | November 26, 2010 7:45 AMReply

    Right, I thought of those titles as well but I think they were omitted because Sondheim was unhappy with the treatment of "Forum." And in "Gypsy" and "West Side Story," that was way back when all he wrote was the lyrics; not considered true Sondheim vehicles I suppose.

    "Company" was one of Sondheim's first musical scores ever and many believe truly launched his career. And anyone bitten by the showbiz bug back in the 70's, that was the record to get one's hands on. I understand that "Rent" author Jonathan Larson listened to that album religiously, along with "Sweeney" and others.

  • christopher Bell | November 25, 2010 11:42 AMReply

    most part most part most part sorry :(

  • Christopher Bell | November 25, 2010 11:42 AMReply

    For what it's worth, I watched "Lakeview Terrace" earlier in the year and found it legitimately tense and unnerving for the most part. Sure, it's a fairly easy idea (racist black man!) with Jackson on auto pilot, but I thought it worked for the most part. Save the ending...

  • David Levy | November 25, 2010 3:30 AMReply

    Film adaptations of his musicals also include West Side Story, Gypsy (twice), and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. I know fact-checking is hard, but is a little glimpse at IMDB too much to ask?

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