By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com April 13, 2011 at 1:20AM
The Broadway hit is no longer the dead cert for a transfer to a big-screen that it once was, but as ever, if studio executives see the queues forming on the Great White Way, they smell the kind of built-in audience that makes their lives easier, even if the path to the big-screen proves trickier than it used to be. The new management at Universal, in particular, having made a pretty penny with "Mamma Mia" a few years back, seem convinced that the stage musical is as fruitful a subject for adaptation as it was in its 1960s heyday: the company has hired recently-minted Oscar winner Tom Hooper for the long-running musical "Les Miserables," and has been developing a version of "The Wizard Of Oz"-themed megahit "Wicked" for some time.
Now, they're moving forward on a version of one of the most notable hits at the moment, and has hired a top-flight screenwriter to bring it to life. Deadline reports that Dustin Lance Black, the Oscar-winning writer of "Milk," and Clint Eastwood's forthcoming "J. Edgar," has been tapped to write an adaptation of "American Idiot," the Broadway hit based around the concept album by punk-rock megastars Green Day. The show, which closes in a couple of weeks, has been running for close to a year, picking up decent reviews and a couple of Tonys for its trouble, includes all the hits from the original record, including the title track, "Holiday," and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," and follows a trio of suburban friends as they fall in love, do drugs and go to war, in a strangely old-fashioned rock opera of the kind that hasn't really been seen since "Tommy."
Universal's deal for the rights (which Tom Hanks' company Playtone, also behind "Mamma Mia," picked up last year) hasn't quite closed yet, but we're sure it's only a matter of time, and they're already lining up Black to write, and Michael Mayer, who helmed the stage production (as well as the Colin Farrell indie "A Home At The End of the World" a few years back) to direct. It's unclear if the Broadway leads will return, but the band's frontman Billie Jo Armstrong is expected to be asked to play the role of St. Jimmy, one he's taken up on the stage a number of times across the show's run -- the box office picking up substantially each time.
While we're a little skeptical about the whole thing (although to be fair, we've not seen the show), Black seems like a strong choice for the material -- it'll presumably leapfrog his other prospective projects, including "The Barefoot Bandit" for David Gordon Green, and the graphic novel adaptation "3 Story: The Secret History Of The Giant Man." At least he's not directing it, anyway. And if you can't bear to wait for the film version, the stage show is heading out on tour in the fall around the country -- check out a snippet from the show below.