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Dark Knight of the Soul
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14 April 1998
The Wall Street Journal
Hollywood Hopes the Neon Lights On Broadway Are Full of Riches
"Batman," the musical? An all-singing, all-dancing "Frankenstein"? How about "Psycho" on stage?
Taking their cue from Walt Disney Co.'s huge success with theatrical productions of "The Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast," several rival Hollywood studios are setting up theatrical-production divisions, culling their motion-picture libraries for material and courting Broadway talent in the hopes of developing the next megamusical.
At Seagram Co.'s Universal Pictures unit, executives are looking to its cache of classic monster movies, including "Frankenstein," "The Mummy," and "Wolfman," encouraged by the huge success of the current Broadway hit "Jekyll & Hyde." Lindsay Law, the former head of Public Broadcasting Service's American Playhouse who now runs Fox Searchlight, a division of News Corp.'s Twentieth Century Fox, is trying to retool the hit movie "The Full Monty" for the theater. And at Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros., the Caped Crusader could be making a landing on a real Gotham City stage.
"We've seen the Broadway explosion and we're trying to see if there's a way we can participate," says Gregory Maday, a Warner Bros. executive who is now focusing on how the studio might exploit its existing properties on the live stage.
Hollywood has been on Broadway before -- with a notable lack of success. And there's no guarantee that material originated on screen will work on stage, as the recent failure of a much-ballyhooed show based on the Tom Hanks movie "Big" demonstrated. Even so, with the global audience for live theatrical productions stretching from Stuttgart, Germany, to Sydney, Australia, a hit musical now has the potential to eventually take in more revenue than a blockbuster movie, and with a potentially much smaller initial investment.
Over the last decade or so, Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera" has raked in global revenue of more than $2.6 billion. The various companies of "Cats" have sold more than $2 billion of tickets since 1982. And Broadway insiders estimate that Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" has taken in an estimated $500 million in box-office revenue over just four years from its various productions world-wide, not including merchandise. In all, figures Jill Krutick, an analyst at Salomon Smith Barney, Disney's operating income from the "Beauty and the Beast" productions is more than $200 million.
Turning movies into stage shows also helps studios perpetuate their brand-name franchises, fueling the cycle of new interest in videocassettes of the film and possible sequels or remakes of the original movies. Just look at the dizzying recycling history of "Grease": It started as a play, then became a movie, a Broadway revival (playing until just recently) and now an "anniversary" event back in the movie theaters.
A one-time regional theater director from Pittsburgh, Warner's Mr. Maday worked on a joint venture with veteran Broadway producer Emanuel Azenberg and Lee Strasberg, the late founder of the Actors' Studio. The plan was to produce lost American classics for theatrical release or cable television.
That program never materialized, but Mr. Maday recently renewed his relationship with Mr. Azenberg, signing him on as an advisor in January. Over the last few months, Warner has been holding discussions with various playwrights about turning the gems in the Warner library into musicals.
They tried to entice Larry Gelbart, who wrote "M*A*S*H," as well as the 1990 Tony Award-winning musical "City of Angels," to create a "Batman" musical. But Mr. Gelbart demurred. Talks about various other properties in the Warner library are ongoing with Tom Stoppard and Christopher Hampton, whose translation of "Art" is currently selling out on 45th Street.
Pay Any Price
If Warner decides to go ahead, price -- at least on a Broadway scale -- is no object. "We know what it takes to produce one of these shows," says Mr. Maday. "You have to use figures in the $20 million range." In Hollywood, that looks like a bargain compared to the cost of the average feature film, which is now about $65 million. "We have financial resources," Mr. Maday notes. "It's a matter of finding the right property and making the commitment."
At Universal, officials are also examining their library for properties that could travel around the world by stage. A singing, dancing "E.T."? "We probably can't because of Spielberg," says Marc Platt, president of production. (Steven Spielberg has never authorized any other theatrical incarnation of his extraterrestrial.) "But we have all the classic monster films. And then there are those Deanna Durbin musicals... and Hitchcock."
Like Mr. Maday, Mr. Platt began his career behind the stage rather than the screen. During law school he worked for Broadway producers Elizabeth McCann and Nelle Nugent on "Elephant Man" and "Amadeus." And Universal has the expertise in place to build a business based on the Disney model: Chris McGurk, who joined Universal Pictures as chief operating officer a year and a half ago, managed all the foreign deals for "Beauty and The Beast" in his previous position as president of Disney's Motion Picture Group.
Disney was hardly the first producer to try turning a movie into a musical. "Sweet Charity" was based on Federico Fellini's "Nights of Cabiria." Ingmar Bergman's "Smiles of a Summer Night" begat "A Little Night Music."
For many years, filmmakers licensed their properties to Broadway producers and had little or no further involvement. Occasionally studios would finance a play in the hopes of someday making a movie out of it. Fox, Paramount and Warner eventually hired their own Broadway-based emissaries to find theatrical projects to invest in.
But those executives functioned like independent producers, working outside the movie studios to find material to develop exclusively for the stage. In the '70s, Warner invested in three plays, made no money and pulled out. Paramount backed "My One and Only" in 1983 with somewhat happier results. But there, too, executives decided they were better off expending their energies on the screen.
In the early '90s, a few studios funded productions based on material from their libraries, but those projects were developed by outside producers -- and few proved profitable. Universal Pictures lost millions bringing the "The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public" (a sequel to its own "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas") to Broadway. Paramount Pictures never saw a dime in profits from "Sunset Boulevard." "It was like lemmings rushing off into the sea," says long-time Broadway producer Stuart Ostrow. "It was fashionable to take a shot. They all lost a boodle of money, and they all pulled out."
- Lisa Gubernick, Staff Writer
9 December 1998
New York Daily News
POW! TIME WARNER EYES BATMAN FOR BROADWAY
Batman, the musical, could be headed to Gotham City.
Hoping to duke it out with Disney on the Great White Way, Warner Bros. is close to hiring a composer to write a musical on the caped crusader.
Sources close to the deal said the Time Warner division, which controls the rights to the masked crime fighter, is negotiating with Jim Steinman, the Grammy-award winning composer known for catapulting Meat Loaf to rock 'n' roll stardom.
Steinman's manager, David Sonenberg, confirmed talks are underway. "This is a very exciting project that Jim was born to write," Sonenberg said. Time Warner has every reason to steer the Batmobile toward Broadway.
The media giant's arch rival, Walt Disney, has already conquered Gotham with two megahits, "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King," which won last year's Tony Award for best musical.
Looking to cash in on the valuable Batman franchise, Time Warner assigned Warner Bros. TV executive Gregory Maday, a former theater director, to scope out a Broadway musical. Maday is expected to come to New York this week in hopes of advancing the project.
Steinman wrote the words and the music for Meat Loaf's two "Bat Out of Hell" albums, which sold more than 50 million copies.
The Batman composer wrote the lyrics to Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Whistle Down the Wind" and composed the music and scripted some lyrics for "Dance of the Vampires," both of which are expected to follow the caped crusader to Broadway.
The composer has also scripted songs for Barbra Streisand and won a Grammy for the Celine Dion single, "It's All Coming Back to Me."
The musical take on the eccentric DC Comics character could hit Broadway by 2000 or 2001.
- Phyllis Furman
9 December 1998
'Pow!' Batman May Fly on Broadway as a Musical
Despite Livent's bad luck and Disney's "Aida" setbacks, corporate inroads into Broadway continue. Warner Brothers is developing plans to bring the comic strip character Batman to the boards as a musical. Composer Jim Steinman, lyricist of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Whistle Down the Wind, has reportedly been approached to write the score.
"This is a very exciting project that Jim was born to write," Steinman's manager David Sonenberg told The Daily News (Dec. 9). Sonenberg said that talks were in progress. Time Warner exec Gregory Maday has been assigned to the project. Maday, formerly a theatre director, was not available for comment.
Should Warner Brothers bring the dark knight to the Great White Way, it will be following in the tracks of several corporate colleagues. Disney has produced two musicals on Broadway -- Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King -- and has two more in the works (Elaborate Lives, Hunchback). Additionally, Cablevision Systems Corp. recently took control of the struggling musical The Scarlet Pimpernel. Another musical producing corporation, Livent, recently declared bankruptcy and had to relinquish control of its Ragtime tour.
For the past decade, Batman and his sidekick Robin has been the subject of a series of highly popular event movies, such as "Batman and Robin" and "Batman Forever." Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney have played the Caped Crusader.
Batman: The Musical could reach Broadway in 2000 or 2001, said the News.
- Robert Simonson
Gambles: Capeman II
CAN 'BATMAN' FLY ON BROADWAY?
They call it the Great White Way, but until recently, you might as well have been describing the audiences' hair. Not any more. These days, Broadway has become a youthful magic kingdom of movie tie-ins and franchise revivals. Blockbuster hits like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and even the much-feared Footloose (now hauling in more than $500,000 a week) are the talk of the town. But holy hot tickets! Is the new buffed-up Broadway really ready for Batman: The Musical?
Though no curtain date is scheduled, a spokeswoman for Warner Bros., which owns the Batman character and movie franchise, confirms that Batman the musical is in "predevelopment development." And according to the New York Daily News, Grammy-winning composer Jim Steinman (best known for the bombastic songs on Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell) has been approached to do the music.
Given the current mood of Broadway, it's a wonder the Caped Crusader hasn't attempted an audition sooner. Or is it? Batman's good buddy Superman actually bellyflopped here 33 years ago. (It's a Bird It's a Plane It's Superman lasted a kryptonite-poisoned 128 performances.) But time heals all wounds, and with the Batman film franchise now in semiretirement (after the critical lambasting given to Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin), this might be a good case of Bat timing.
It's also in keeping with Broadway's upcoming season. Among the pop-culture touchstones hoping to become a 42nd St. phenom: a London version of Saturday Night Fever that may arrive next year; Urban Cowboy, which is morphing into a musical with songs by Clint Black and others; and a musical production of the sappy Saturday-morning TV series Saved by the Bell.
Still, not everyone is embracing the pop invasion. "The theaterati say that Broadway has become a tourist museum of glitzy theater rather than legitimate serious work," says David Lefkowitz, editor in chief of Playbill On-Line. But Jed Bernstein, executive director of the League of American Theatres and Producers, believes Broadway will ultimately benefit from this caped crusade. These shows "may broaden the audience and maybe get them to see something a little more daring, unusual, or newer."
BEST-CASE SCENARIO Profits from shows like Batman help fund more original works-and a new Arthur Miller is discovered.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO Batman's a huge hit that spawns others like Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park With Spiderman.
- Marc S. Malkin
22 April 1999
WB, Ives set for 'Bat' tuner
Grammy-winning tunesmith Steinman to pen lyrics
Warner Bros. has ignited the bat signal, and playwright David Ives seems ready to heed the call. The playwright, best known for plays such as "Ancient History", "Mere Mortals" and "English Made Simple" is close to a deal that has him writing the book to the WB's first foray onto Broadway, "Batman: The Musical."
Having struck out with the flopped feature animation "Quest for Camelot" which died in theaters, the WB is now seeking to capitalize on the theatrical gold mine of Broadway. Disney hits "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King" have racked up grosses as some of the White Way's biggest shows.
And while Jim Steinman, the Grammy-winning tunesmith who penned Meatloaf's 50 plus million selling "Bat Out of Hell" albums, -- and who co-penned tunes for the Dodger's current Broadway effort, "Footloose" -- is attached to handle music and lyrics for the caped epic, no helmer has yet inked to "Batman". Insiders say that Stephen Daldry, best known for current Broadway legiter "Via Dolorosa" and helming the London and Broadway productions of "An Inspector Calls," has since passed on the project, and now efforts are being made to recruit Robin Phillips, helmer of current Pace Theatricals Broadway hit "Jekyll and Hyde" to helm Gotham's heavyweight crime fighter.
Warner Bros. execs declined to comment on the hires at deadline late Wednesday.
Ives is repped by William Craver at Writers & Artists Agency in Gotham; Steinman is managed by David Sonenberg. Craver declined to comment.
Time Warner, which controls the rights on the DC Comics character, is aiming to place the tuner on B'way by early 2001.
- Claude Brodesser
22 April 1999
David Ives to Write Book for Steinman's Bway Batman
Warner Brothers has hired playwright David Ives (All in the Timing, Mere Mortals) to write the book for the new Broadway-bound, Batman: The Musical, reports Variety (April 22)
Despite Livent's bad luck and Disney's "Aida" setbacks, corporate inroads into Broadway continue. Warner Brothers is developing plans to bring the comic strip character Batman to the boards as a musical. Composer Jim Steinman, of Meatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell" fame and lyricist of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Whistle Down the Wind, will write the score and lyrics.
Insiders claim that Stephen Daldry (Via Dolorosa & An Inspector Calls) passed on the project, with Robin Phillips (Jekyll & Hyde) in negotiations for it, also according to Variety.
Should Warner Brothers bring the dark knight to the Great White Way, it will be following in the tracks of several corporate colleagues. Disney has produced two musicals on Broadway -- Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King -- and has two more in the works (Aida, Hunchback of Notre Dame).
For the past decade, Batman and his sidekick Robin has been the subject of a series of highly popular "event" movies, such as "Batman and Robin" and "Batman Forever." Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney have all played film versions of the Caped Crusader.
Time Warner, who owns the rights for the caped crusader, is aiming to place the tuner on Bway by early 2001.
- Sean McGrath
28 April 1999
The NY Daily News
The Batmobile is blasting toward Broadway!
After months of negotiations, Hollywood movie studio Warner Bros. is on the verge of locking in three theater pros - including famed producer Manny Azenberg - to create a Broadway musical featuring the Caped Crusader, sources close to Warner Bros. said.
Greg Maday, the Warner Bros. executive in charge of the highly anticipated "Batman" show, is expected to meet this week with Warner Bros. co-chairman Bob Daly to iron out details. The Caped Crusader is Broadway bound. According to the source, the musical take on "Batman" is scheduled to hit Gotham sometime in 2001. Warner Bros. and Azenberg were mum on the plans. Azenberg, the producer of the Broadway revival of Eugene O'Neill's drama, "The Iceman Cometh", has been consulting with Maday for several months.
Warner Bros. a newcomer to the Great White Way, is counting on Azenberg's four decades of experience as the producer of all of Neil Simon's plays, as well as such acclaimed shows as "Sunday in the Park with George".
As first reported in the Daily News, Maday is set to tap Grammy-award winning rock composer Jim Steinman to write music and lyrics for the "Batman" show. Rounding out the "Batman" threesome, Warner Bros. is about to sign playwright David Ives, who wrote the off-Broadway play "All in the Timing", to pen the show.
"We hope to announce a deal within the next couple weeks," said Ives' agent William Craver
- Phyllis Furman
20 June 1999
The It List - Stage
It Broadway Rocker
AGE 49: WHY HIM? The writer-producer behind Meat Loaf's "Bat Out of Hell" is the Great White Way's new lullabier. Steinman's "Whistle Down the Wind", a collaboration with Andrew Lloyd Webber, comes to the U.S. next year; his "Dance of the Vampires", directed by Roman Polanski, will debut on B'way by Halloween 2000; then he'll turn the Caped Crusader into a crooner for "Batman: The Musical", in 2001. WORK HABITS: "I'm nocturnal. My favourite thing is to go to sleep around noon, and work through the night." Creative crutch "I listen to Wagner and the Beach Boys. And I watch Hitchcock. I once got kicked out of an apartment for playing the score from Psycho too loud." WORST JOB "Playing in the opening act for Bette Midler at a bathhouse in New York. I was all dressed up and everyone else was in towels." NEXT Studying bat habits for "Batman": "I'm starting to sleep upside down in a tree."
17 October 2000
Batman: The Musical Waiting in the Wings
Songwriter Jim Steinman and playwright David Ives have been working for two years on a project to bring a musical version of the story of millionaire Bruce Wayne and his sidekick Dick (aka Batman and Robin) to the Broadway stage.
Warner Bros. have commissioned Steinman and Ives (their 'dynamic duo') to get a draft of the script and score to them early in November, with workshops to follow if the show about the comic book heroes is fighting fit.
However, the early 2001 opening of 'Batman: The Musical', envisaged back in 1999, is now seen as unrealistic.
Steinman made a name for himself penning classics for Meat Loaf, music for Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Whistle Down the Wind', and composing the score to the Vienna hit, 'Dance of the Vampires'. Ives had a major Off-Broadway and regional hit with his multiple bill of witty comedies 'All in the Timing', and followed it with 'Mere Mortals'.
Altogether now: "Like a Bat outta Hell......"
26 December 2000
Ives and Steinman Still Working on Warner Bros.' Bway Batman
Though little has been heard since April 1999, when news came out that Warner Brothers was developing a musical version of "Batman," playwright David Ives (All in the Timing, Mere Mortals) is continuing to work on the book, and Jim Steinman the score for the new Broadway-bound project.
Time Warner, who owns the rights for the caped crusader, had been aiming to place Batman: The Musical on Broadway by early 2001. Now it appears the show won't reach New York until 2002 or 2003. Ives' representative at Writers & Artists told Playbill On-Line (Dec. 22) that a "big big project" such as Batman would likely take "two more years to get on," but there's no current timeframe or specific schedule for development. Ives is also working on a screenplay and another play, but no details are yet available about those projects.
According to Ives - reached at Louisville, KY's Humana Festival this past April, where his one-act Arabian Night debuted as part of the "Ten Minute Plays" slate - Emanuel Azenberg is also part of the Batman producing team.
Composer Steinman, of Meat Loaf's "Bat Out of Hell" fame and lyricist of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Whistle Down the Wind, is writing the score and lyrics.
Insiders claim that Stephen Daldry (Via Dolorosa, An Inspector Calls) passed on the project, with Robin Phillips (Jekyll & Hyde) in negotiations for it, according to an April 1999 Variety report.
Should Warner Brothers bring the dark knight to the Great White Way, it will be following in the tracks of several corporate colleagues. Disney has produced three musicals on Broadway -- Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Aida -- and apparently has two more in the works (Pinocchio, The Little Mermaid).
Last decade, Batman and his sidekick Robin were the subject of a series of highly popular "event" movies, such as "Batman and Robin" and "Batman Forever." Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney have all played film versions of the Caped Crusader.
- David Lefkowitz &
25 May 2001
The Caped Crusade
-- THE CAPED CRUSADE Warner Bros. is prepping Batman, and Jim Steinman (vet of Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell) swears it's not campy. "It's loosely based on the Tim Burton movies," says the composer, who's also readying his Dance of the Vampires (from a Roman Polanski horror comedy). "There's a thrilling 20-minute opening spectacle of Gotham City. It's like Guys and Dolls on mescaline. In a good way."
- Melissa Rose Bernardo
30 August 2002
New York Post
Holy Broadway! "Batman: The Musical" has finally landed a director - Tim Burton. Warner Brothers, which is producing the multi-million dollar musical, has been courting Burton, who directed the 1989 "Batman" movie as well as the 1992 sequel "Batman Returns", for over a year.
The studio sealed the deal last week, theater sources say, after Burton had several long and productive meetings with book-writer David Ives and composer Jim Steinman.
Reached yesterday, Steinman said: "We're thrilled he's going to do it. David and I floundered around for a year trying to figure out how to musicalize Batman. Then we looked at Tim's original movie and thought, that's it."
Steinman said Burton "has already got a list of 20 designers from all over the world he wants to talk to about the production." Burton - who also directed "Planet of the Apes" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" - has never staged a musical before, though he's said to enjoy the theater and has mused to friends that he'd like to start a puppet theater one day.
According to one theater source, he wants to direct "Batman: The Musical" because he is not pleased with the goofy, campy turn the franchise took with "Batman Forever" and "Batman and Robin", both of which were directed by Joel Schumacher.
Burton's movies were haunting and much darker than the theme-park rides Schumacher cranked out.
"He wants to re-establish his original vision," said the source. "His major impulse is to redeem the soul of the Batman series." Burton will begin working on the musical full-time next year. The plan is to open out of town in 2004 and arrive on Broadway in 2005.
The budget is still being worked out, but veteran producers figure a "Batman" musical would cost at least $15 million.
In addition to Batman and Robin, the musical will feature the characters The Joker and Catwoman.
Steinman, whose "Dance of the Vampires" opens this fall on Broadway, described his "Batman" score as a mixture of "Brecht, Weill, Rodgers & Hammerstein and rock 'n' roll."
The overall design concept, as of right now, he said, is "Gotham City as Berlin in the 1930s."
Warner Brothers is in the process of setting up a theatrical division similar to the one Disney has put together.
The studio, says a source, has carefully tracked the success of Disney's "The Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast", and now wants to get in on the game.
"They have movies that are just as popular, and they are looking for new ways to exploit them," the source said...
- Michael Riedel
30 August 2002
Report: Tim Burton to Direct Musical of Batman
For the director of the new musical version of "Batman", the show's producers have turned to the man who turned the comic strip character into a film franchise in the first place: Tim Burton. So reported the "New York Post" Aug. 30. Burton will be working with composer Jim Steinman and librettist David Ives, who have long been attached to the project.
This is the first major news on the project since April 1999, when news came out that Warner Brothers was developing a musical version of "Batman".
Time Warner, who owns the rights to the caped crusader, had been aiming to place "Batman: The Musical" on Broadway by early 2001. In late 1999, Ives' representative at Writers & Artists told Playbill On-Line that a "big big project" such as "Batman" would likely take "two more years to get on."
Burton directed the original "Batman" as well as its first sequel "Batman Returns". Two more editions, directed by Joel Schumacher, followed. Burton's other credits include "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Edward Scissorhands".
The Post said the team hoped to get the musical an out-of-town tryout by 2004, with a Broadway bow to follow in 2005.
Composer Steinman, of Meatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell" fame and lyricist of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Whistle Down the Wind", is writing the score and lyrics.
Steinman's "Dance of the Vampires" is due on Broadway this fall
- Robert Simonson
30 August 2002
Great White Wayne
Tim Burton will direct Broadway musical "Batman" -- He'll return to the franchise for his Gotham stage debut
If you were going to stage a Broadway musical version of "Batman," who would you hire to direct it? Why not the man who revived the franchise as an operatic spectacle on the big screen? That's what Warner Bros. is apparently doing. The New York Post reports that the studio has hired Tim Burton, the filmmaker behind "Batman" and "Batman Returns," to direct the show.
The musical, which marks Warner's first foray onto Broadway (following Disney's success adapting its properties into long-running hit shows like "The Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast"), has a book by David Ives and a score by Jim Steinman. "We're thrilled he's going to do it," Steinman said of Burton. He told the Post, "David and I floundered around for a year trying to figure out how to musical 'Batman.' Then we looked at Tim's original movie and thought, that's it."
A source tells the Post that Burton wants to restore the dark vision to the superhero saga, which critics say curdled into goofy camp in the last two installments of the film franchise, which were directed by Joel Schumacher. "He wants to re-establish his original vision," said the source. "His major impulse is to redeem the soul of the 'Batman' series." That could be a challenge, cleansing "Batman" of camp by staging it as a Broadway musical, especially one scored by the songwriter best known for composing Meat Loaf's bombastic hits.
Burton isn't expected to start work on the musical until sometime next year, with opening night on Broadway not expected to take place until 2005. Meantime, he's going to Alabama early next year to film "Big Fish," a father-son drama that stars Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney as the same character at different ages. For his part, Steinman has a musical opening on Broadway this fall that features some other bat men; it's called "Dance of the Vampires."
- Gary Susman
30 August 2002
Tim Burton to Helm Batman: The Musical
Tim Burton, who directed the films "Batman" and "Batman Returns", is now attached to the Broadway-bound "Batman: The Musical". The tuner is planning a 2004 out of town tryout in hopes of reaching the Great White Way in 2005, according to The New York Post.
"We're thrilled he's going to do it," composer Jim Steinman told The Post. "[Librettist] David [Ives] and I floundered around for a year trying to figure out how to musicalize Batman. Then we looked at Tim's original movie and thought, that's it."
In addition to the first two movies of the "Batman" franchise, Burton's film credits include "Frankenweenie", "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure", "Beetlejuice", "Edward Scissorhands", "Ed Wood", "Mars Attacks!", "Sleepy Hollow" and "Planet of the Apes". He is the winner of the 1990 Director of the Year ShoWest Award. His latest film, "Big Fish", is slated to be released next year. "Batman: The Musical" will be his first crack at directing a stage tuner.
While it is still in development, "Batman: The Musical" currently features the characters of Batman, Robin, The Joker and Cat Woman. Warner Brothers (the company that is also behind the "Batman" films) is set to produce the project, which will reportedly cost a minimum of $15 million.
3 September 2002
Batman: The Musical
Tim Burton is returning to the "Batman" franchise -- sort of. While the director of the first two "Batman" movies won't be directing the next feature film on the caped crusader, he will be helming "Batman: The Musical!"
Warner Bros. courted Burton for over a year to make the $15 million stage production, reports the New York Post. There is no word on whether Michael Keaton, who played the winged hero in both of Burton's "Batman" forays, will join the cast of the stage production.
Jim Steinman, who composed the music for the show, told the newspaper: "We're thrilled he's going to do it. David [Ives, who wrote the libretto] and I floundered around for a year trying to figure out how to musicalize 'Batman'. Then we looked at Tim's original movie and thought, that's it."
According to the paper, producers are planning to open the play out of town in 2004 and on Broadway the following year.
Burton, whose last film was "Planet of the Apes," is currently working on "Big Fish," with Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney.
4 September 2002
Burton will direct Batman musical
"Batman: The Musical" is coming to Broadway!
The director of the 1989 and 1992 film versions, Tim Burton, will helm Warner Brothers' multimillion-dollar theatre extravaganza. According to "The New York Post", the studio sealed the deal last week, after Burton had several meetings with author David Ives and composer Jim Steinman.
Steinman said, "We're thrilled he's [Burton] going to do it. David and I floundered around for a year trying to figure out how to musicalise Batman. Then we looked at Tim's original movie and thought, 'That's it.'" Steinman also said Burton "has already got a list of 20 designers from all over the world he wants to talk to about the production." The plan is to open out of town in 2004 and arrive on Broadway in 2005. The budget's still being worked out but it's reckoned a "Batman" musical would cost at least $15 million. In addition to Batman and Robin, the musical will feature the characters The Joker and Catwoman
Batman out of hell
Hollywood oddball Tim Burton's latest project is a musical version of "Batman". Honestly. Burton, who directed "Batman" and "Batman Returns", has joined up with Jim Steinman, who will write the music for the show. In a recent interview, Steinman said that Burton had 'a list of 20 designers from all over the world he wants to talk to about the production'. Rumour had it that Burton would devote all his energies to the "Batman" musical from the beginning of next year, aiming to launch on Broadway in 2005, but given that his latest film, "Big Fish", is due to start shooting in January, it looks like the bat will be hibernating a bit longer. Coincidentally, Jim Steinman wrote much of a very famous album by Meat Loaf - Batman Out of Hell, anyone?
4 September 2002
Batman: The Musical
Tim Burton is set to take the directing reigns on the latest "Batman". But this isn't the next movie in the franchise. It's "Batman: The Musical" an off-Broadway musical that the quirky director is keen to take on according to NY Post. Warner Bros. has been courting Burton for the job for over a year.
Composer Jim Steinman will be working up the music for the show. "We're thrilled he's going to do it. [Writer] David [Ives] and I floundered around for a year trying to figure out how to musicalize Batman. Then we looked at Tim's original movie and thought, that's it," Steinman told the NY Post. He also said that Burton "has already got a list of 20 designers from all over the world he wants to talk to about the production."
Apparently the director is eager to re-establish his dark vision for the franchise. The show is set to launch off-Broadway in 2004 and arrive on Broadway in 2005. The show will feature Batman, Robin, The Joker and Catwoman. Steinman described his "Batman" score as a mixture of "Brecht, Weill, Rodgers & Hammerstein and rock 'n' roll."
4 September 2002
Batman of the Opera
It's been reported that Tim Burton is to go back to the Batcave and direct a musical-version of "Batman". The news was revealed by composer Jim Steinman, who rather aptly penned the Meatloaf hit, "Bat Out Of Hell". Speaking to the NY Post website, he said Burton "has already got a list of 20 designers from all over the world he wants to talk to about the production." The show is expected to make its Broadway debut in 2005 and to feature Robin, The Joker and Catwoman as well as Batman. Cult would like to offer the following casting suggestions - Darren Day as Batman, Adam Rickett as Robin, Brian Blessed as The Joker, and Jane McDonald as Catwoman. Should go down a storm
19 September 2002
Steinman, Ives and Director Tim Burton in Pre-Production on Batman
Composer Jim Steinman confirmed to Playbill On-Line Sept. 18 that film director Tim Burton will make his stage directorial debut with the new musical version of Batman. The production team of Steinman, Burton and librettist David Ives are in pre-production for the musical about the caped crusader.
"It's more like his first two movies than any of the other movies. It's very dark and gothic, but really wildly funny. It was my dream that he do this," Steinman disclosed.
Composer Steinman - of Meatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell", Andrew Lloyd Webber's Whistle Down the Wind - is writing the score and lyrics. Steinman and Ives are currently teaming up on the upcoming musical Dance of the Vampires directed by Tony Award winner John Rando and choreographer John Carrafa.
This is the first major news on the project since April 1999, when news came out that Warner Brothers were developing a musical version of "Batman." Time Warner, who owns the rights for the caped crusader, had been aiming to place Batman: The Musical on Broadway by early 2001. In late 1999, Ives' representative at Writers & Artists told Playbill On-Line that a "big big project" such as Batman would likely take "two more years to get on."
Burton directed the original "Batman" as well as its first sequel "Batman Returns." Two more editions, directed by Joel Schumacher, followed. Burton's other credits include "Pee-wee's Big Adventure," "Beetlejuice," "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Edward Scissorhands."
- Ernio Hernandez &
3 November 2002
It's all about Ives
Scribe does book duty on trio of tuners
NEW YORK -- Two years ago, Terrence McNally put a sign over his writing desk: No More Musicals. After all, he had been working on the books for no less than three tuners ("The Full Monty," "The Visit," "A Man of No Importance") and one opera ("Dead Man Walking)".
Filling the void today is David Ives. He's the book writer for the upcoming "Dance of the Vampires", "The Little Mermaid" and "Batman: The Musical."
Ives came to book-writing through Encores!, where he has retooled the text for no less than 11 vintage tuners, including the concert series' first stab at operetta, Sigmund Romberg's "The New Moon," due in spring 2003.
"David is the master of our two-page rule," says Encores! artistic director Jack Viertel. "In a concert version, you can't have actors recite 15 pages of text with books in their hands and an orchestra on stage."
For his part, Ives calls the Encores! experience "literary ventriloquism." Legit critics who rave about Encores! but complain about Broadway's fully staged revivals may not realize how responsible Ives' judicious cuts are for their double standard.
"You have to make them two-thirds of their original length, but extract the essence," Ives says of concert shows.
At present, the scribe is consumed by the very different problem of "finding just the right tone" for "Dance of the Vampires," in previews at the Minskoff. Or as he wishfully puts it, "We are out of town in previews at 44th and Carpathia."
Jim Steinman, the show's composer, had already hooked up with Ives to write "Batman: The Musical" when the two went to see "Vampires" in Stuttgart and Steinman asked him to come aboard on the undead project. Already a part of Broadway legend, the show went through a few producers and directors, as well as $12 million to $14 million, depending on whom you talk to. But Steinman and Ives have remained.
"Sometimes I feel like Ishmael at the end of 'Moby Dick,'" he jokes. "Jim and I are left to tell how it came about."
If he ever plans to write the behind-the-scenes story of "Vampires," it will have to wait until at least 2005, which is when "Batman: The Musical" is skedded for Broadway. Blame the long wait on Tim Burton's busy film sked. Ives has written a draft of the "Batman" script ("which Tim likes"), with Steinman having completed a half dozen songs.
"A Little Mermaid" is further along, says Ives: "We'll have a round-table reading in February. It's slated for out of town in spring 2004 and in town in fall 2004." (The writer reveals director Matthew Bourne will definitely not be using actors on wires to simulate the show's underwater sequences.)
Between "Vampires" and "Mermaid," Ives will find time to get his new play "Polish Jokes" up at MTC, in spring 2003, with "Vampires" director John Rando at the helm. Calling it "a Polish coming-of-age story," Ives promises, "not one more fang joke."
- Robert Hofler
21 November 2002
Jim Steinman on "Batman" and "Dance of the Vampires"
Rock composer Jim Steinman has a whole lot of musicals in him, and their running theme seems to be a certain species of blind, flying mammal.
The first Steinman musical to come to Broadway will be "Dance of the Vampires", based on Roman Polanski's movie "The Fearless Vampire Killers" and beginning previews Oct. 14. The show, in its original German version, has been a cult hit in Europe since it premiered in 1997; it's still packing in audiences in Stuttgart.
"Dance of the Vampires" includes one of Steinman's best-known songs, "Total Eclipse of the Heart". That song, a big hit in its 1983 incarnation sung by Bonnie Tyler, originally grew out of an idea for another vampire musical, "Nosferatu", which never materialized.
Steinman is also well-known as the writer behind Meat Loaf's 1977 record "Bat Out of Hell" and its 1993 sequel, two concept albums based on Steinman's long-cherished plan for a rock and roll musical about Peter Pan, which he calls "Neverland".
Steinman still has hopes for "Neverland", but before that can come together, he has to finish work on what must be the mother of all bat musicals, "Batman" slated for Broadway in 2005.
"It's about 70 percent done," says Steinman of the new show based on the legendary DC Comics character. "But it's got a lot of work to do. Tim Burton's directing it, and he'll change a lot."
Film director Burton ("Beetlejuice" and "Edward Scissorhands", among others) will make his first Broadway venture with a property he knows pretty well: he directed "Batman" (1989) and "Batman Returns" (1992).
"The musical is very similar to the first movie," Steinman reports. "Very dark and wild, with some very anarchic comedy."
"I do notice I'm doing only bat things," he admits. "I don't know what that signifies."
7 May 2003
* Re: Warner Bros. production of LESTAT (BATMAN mention)
Elton John brings Anne Rice's vampires to Broadway. He and lyricist Bernie Taupin are turning "The Vampire Lestat" into a musical
Vampires haven't done too well on Broadway lately, but that's not stopping Elton John, who announced yesterday that he and Bernie Taupin, his longtime lyricist, are adapting a musical from Anne Rice's "Vampire Chronicles" series. Unlike the recent musical flop "Dance of the Vampires," which closed in January after just 56 performance and a loss of $12 million, John and Taupin's musical would eschew capes, crosses, and tap-dancing bloodsuckers, they promised. "It will be dark, sexy, and scary, but that doesn't mean it has to be cliché," Taupin said Tuesday at a New York press conference.
Called "The Vampire Lestat" (the musical will borrow from the Rice novel of that title, as well as her "Interview with the Vampire" and "Queen of the Damned"), the play will be the first Broadway show for Taupin and the third for John, who also scored the Disney-produced "The Lion King" and "Aida," both likely to still be running when "Lestat" opens in 2005. The musical's libretto will be written by Linda Woolverton and directed by Robert Jess Roth, both of whom filled the same roles for Disney's Broadway version of "Beauty and the Beast."
In another attempt to avoid cheese, John said his score will avoid rock instrumentation and use traditional orchestral instruments instead, as befits a story that goes back to the 1700s. "I didn't see where any modern music could possibly come in without sounding ridiculous," he said.
The musical is likely to be the first production by Warner Bros. to reach the stage, attempting to follow Disney's example of turning its film properties into Broadway shows. The movie studio is also planning another musical about a bat-man, or rather, Batman, and is hoping to get Tim Burton to direct a musical version of his 1989 film. Let's hope "Batman" has better luck than "Dance of the Vampires" did; both are scored by Jim Steinman, best known for composing Meat Loaf's hits.
- Gary Susman
23 April 2006
New York Times*
* Re: Warner Bros. production of LESTAT (BATMAN mention)
'Lestat': Bringing Anne Rice's World to the Stage With Elton John's Help
With the opening of "Lestat," his Broadway debut, only a few days away, the producer Gregg Maday has problems.
Not simply the niggling technical glitches that plague every production of this size — reportedly more than $12 million — but huge, scary, potentially fatal problems, the kind that might have sent a lesser person swan diving from the mezzanine by now.
"Listen, I know the first 20 minutes still doesn't work," he told a reporter just before the curtain rose at a recent Saturday night preview, tugging playfully on his white goatee. The creative team, including the director Robert Jess Roth (formerly of "Beauty and the Beast"), had spent the day before laboriously reworking those same 20 minutes, radically altering lighting, sound and set; mere hours ago, Mr. Maday had sounded as though everything was on track. "By Monday," he now said, "it'll be totally different. Don't you love this process?"
A more pressing question might be, Why is this man smiling? Why isn't he throwing tantrums and hurling invective? After all, it was he who persuaded his employer, Warner Brothers, to mount this adaptation of the novels of Anne Rice, with a score by Elton John and lyrics by Bernie Taupin. In so doing he ushered the company into the risky business of adapting its properties for the stage. (The company bought the rights when it made the 1994 film "Interview With a Vampire," with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.)
He also opened it to what may be unfavorable comparisons with Disney, which has had unqualified success with shows like "Beauty and the Beast," "The Lion King" and "Aida." Mr. Maday has also set himself up for tough comparisons personally. By persuading Warner to let him control "Lestat" without the help of a veteran Broadway producer, he is bound to be measured against Thomas Schumacher, Disney's dapper in-house theatrical impresario, the only other corporate producer to go it alone.
But Warner, unlike Disney, has no theatrical division in place, no long history in live action born of years in the theme park business, just Mr. Maday, hanging out there for all to see.
"There's a lot resting on him," said Mark Kaufman, executive vice president of production for music and theater at New Line Cinema, who produced "Hairspray" and the forthcoming "Wedding Singer" with Margo Lion. "I might find it pretty scary if it were just me out there."
All this might be less daunting if "Lestat" had the crowd-pleasing gimmicks to virtually all mass-market musicals today. But it has no falling chandelier, whirring helicopter or swinging vines. "We purposefully decided to avoid production theatrics like that," Mr. Maday said. "And now we know we have to deliver on the basic merits."
That has not proved easy thus far. "Lestat" has gotten some of the worst press in recent memory, including universally awful reviews during a January 2006 tryout in San Francisco. Elton John's songs were called "unrelentingly saccharine," "banal" and "virtually undistinguishable," and the show's book cursory and jumbled. While audiences familiar with Ms. Rice's work were most likely prepared for the fact that the story contains no heterosexual love angle, critics complained that even the homoerotic tension had been neutered, leaving little oomph of any kind.
"The whole thing was ordinary, to say the least," said Sir Elton, in a telephone interview, "soulless and bland." He thought Mr. Maday might fold the production. "But instead of throwing up his hands," Sir Elton said, "he was a rock."
Since moving the operation to New York in February 2006, Mr. Maday and the creative team have engaged in a thorough overhaul. Jonathon Butterell, the choreographer of "The Light in the Piazza," was hired to lend a fresh creative eye, Sir Elton wrote two new songs and Linda Woolverton ("Aida"), who wrote the book, stripped away many of the plot points that audiences found confusing. The passionate undertones of Ms. Rice's novels have been restored, some sly humor added and the elaborate exposition originally projected on large scrims throughout the play excised.
Originally expected to open April 13, 2006 with previews beginning March 11, 2006, the play was pushed back a couple of weeks. Mr. Maday estimates that 75 percent of the production has been changed since San Francisco. "We've made it better since we came to New York, without a doubt," he said. "The question will be, Is it good enough?"
Mr. Maday is no newcomer to such high-wire acts, especially ones that require a deft hand with corporate boundaries and high-priced talent. He has been an executive at Warner for nearly two decades, a fairly astonishing tenure in Hollywood. Before that he spent nearly nine years at CBS, where as head of comedy and drama development he shepherded shows like "Murphy Brown" and the critically acclaimed but short-lived "Frank's Place."
"They know what I'm capable of," he said of his employers. "It might have been different if they had hired me just to do this; the relationship between us would have been less secure. Because of the situation, I didn't see this as just a way to advance my career. I love the theater, and for me, getting to do this is a way to go back to something that I never got out of my blood."
Tom Fontana, the creator of the HBO series "Oz" and "The Bedford Diaries," now on WB, went to a Roman Catholic school in Buffalo with Mr. Maday. He traces the producer's grace under pressure to their Jesuit education. "They taught us that if you can remain calm in the eye of the storm, you can make almost anything work," he said. "Gregg has always been like that. I've never see him panic."
Beatific demeanor notwithstanding, Mr. Maday concedes that he is feeling the screws. "It would be ludicrous to deny that there's pressure on me," he said, lounging in the empty orchestra section, looking hip in a corduroy suit and sneakers. "But at some point you just have to have faith that you'll come up with the answer, or at least an answer. You remind yourself that you've put together a lot of challenging projects in the past, and there are a lot of phenomenally talented people working with you. You have to be strong."
It's hardly a mystery why Warner has invested heavily Broadway. Ever since Disney entered the fray with "Beauty and the Beast," the lure of turning a movie property into a stage show has been a holy grail for entertainment conglomerates. In addition to New Line, which, like Warner, is a division of the media giant Time Warner, MGM has gotten into the game through licensing, as it did with "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."
What attracts them is not the bottom line of the show itself — $1 million a week, a good haul for a musical, would be an embarrassment for a film — but its potential ripple effect. Even a semi-successful show can restore an old movie's luster in the DVD market and give rise to a slew of video games, road companies, toys, T-shirts and collectibles. "It's a way to make it all three-dimensional," said Mr. Kaufman, who saw "Hairspray" morph from a low-budget John Waters film to a Broadway musical and to a big-budget movie. "When it works, it can be magic."
But only with the right property. "The balance," said the Broadway producer Emanuel Azenberg, "is that you achieve the right equilibrium between money and art. That's harder to do when you're a corporation because there are other reasons you make choices. When you have a corporation behind you, you gain money and that's great, but you lose something."
What led Mr. Maday and Warner to choose "Lestat," by all measures challenging source material, is a case in point. He had been working on an adaptation of "Batman" (Warner owns the rights to all the DC Comics) but in 2003 Mr. Roth approached him about "Lestat." Sir Elton, Mr. Taupin and Ms. Woolverton had already signed on. Ms. Rice was gung-ho, too. They had even brainstormed the show in a three-day session in Las Vegas, which Sir Elton refers to fondly as "vampire boot camp."
"They came to us and said, 'Hey you guys own this already, so obviously you should do it,' " Mr. Maday recalled. Like everyone else, he knew the weak history of vampire shows on Broadway — the $12 million "Dance of the Vampires" closed after only a month in 2003, and "Dracula, the Musical" ran for a mere five months a year later. But, he recalled: "You say to yourself, hmmm. Anne Rice has sold 60 million copies of these books. Elton John is a legend, and he's already done two shows. And then you say yes." The clincher was that, as Mr. Taupin's first musical, it could be advertised as the first show by Sir Elton and his longtime collaborator. Sir Elton wrote the songs in less than two weeks.
But there was still the problem of the source material. Ms. Rice's books are highly detailed, graphically violent and narratively complex, full of morally ambiguous, pansexual characters. Making that work in a mainstream Broadway context has been among Mr. Maday's greatest challenges. "I realized that we had to find a way to be deeply true to the source material without being shackled by it," he said. "That balance didn't come easily."
Or quickly. Sir Elton saw the show a couple of weeks ago and said he was knocked out by the changes. "They were able to do exactly what they needed to," he said, "and that is bring humanity to it, make it a serious work." But Mr. Maday concedes that it will be hard to overcome the negative buzz.
"There's no way to fly under the radar in this day and age," he said, "no way to retool without everyone watching and judging. You need to perform in front of preview audiences to know where to take it. But then the bloggers come and post their comments. In one way it's great to have the immediate feedback, but it's also frustrating."
So far, he said, group sales have "not been where we want them to be," but he said he believed the show would catch on with the 18-to-35 demographic that "Spamalot" has tapped.
Traditionally financed shows are judged by how quickly they earn back their original investment, but Warner's top brass will assess this experiment based on a strange brew of critical reception, revenue, long-term marketing possibilities and what they view as necessary investment in the learning curve of a new industry. "We know how they're going to judge it, but I'm not going to talk about it," Barry M. Meyer, the company's chairman and chief executive officer, said coyly. But he insisted that whatever the final tally, Warner would pursue other theater ventures, through one financing model or another.
Already, he said, he has learned an important lesson: "Mounting a Broadway play is much harder than it looks, especially something like 'Lestat,' which is wildly ambitious. You're fixing it, changing it all the time. That's been hard for us because it's not what we're accustomed to, but it also appeals to us tremendously."
Mr. Maday is
hesitant to speak of the future, but with a little prodding, he will confess he
has a Broadway wish list. He hasn't given up on "Batman,"
and the company also owns partial rights to "Harry Potter" and "Charlie and
Chocolate Factory," both of which he says he thinks would make great stage
adaptations. Before he plunged into "Lestat," he had developed an interpretative
dance version of "Casablanca," another Warner title; it had its debut in China
last year, and he hopes to bring it to the United States.
But for now such plans are mere dream sequences; he has a play to fix. That 20-minute opening has to be locked down before the critics start streaming in. "Tomorrow night we're going to try it on a blank stage, real stripped down, 'Arte Povera' style, you know?" he said, his voice tinged with hope. "It could be great. It could be the answer we've been looking for."
- Nancy Hass
18 July 2006
Batman: The Musical by Jim Steinman?
Holy Broadway, Batman! The Caped Crusader is set to be the subject of a new Jim Steinman stage musical. Composer Steinman, the man behind rock anthems by Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler, among others, has been toying with the idea of creating Batman, The Musical for years - and now it looks as if his plan will be realized (1).
The Bat Out Of Hell hitmaker shelved the Batman musical idea, which he hoped to create with quirky film-maker Tim Burton, two years ago (04) to allow both to concentrate on other projects (2). But now Steinman has put the venture high on his priority list after letting fans hear two new songs he has written for the musical (3). The first, "Not Allowed To Love", is a dark duet penned for Batman and Catwoman, and the second "Where Does He Get Those Toys" - a tune for Batman villain The Joker and sung by Steinman himself - was debuted on Steinman's website over the weekend (15/16JUL06).
There are no official details as to when Steinman's Batman musical will hit the stage, or if Burton is still attached to the project.
(1) Steinman was
commissioned by Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures.
(2) He didn't "shelve" the idea, it was cancelled by Warner Bros. for reasons unknown.
(3) He just posted the demos online.
15 November 2007
* Tim Burton, Sweeney Todd promotion (BATMAN mention)
Tim Burton Shows First "Sweeney Todd" Cuts to New York Audience
"They wanted me to do 'Batman' as a musical,' said director Tim Burton - with a verbal eye-roll to a crowd of film buffs at The Film Society of Lincoln Center - about his previous brush with the world of musical theatre.
Richard Peña moderated "An Evening with Tim Burton: Cinema's Demon Barber" Nov. 14 at Frederick P. Rose Hall's Rose Theater where scenes from the forthcoming 'Sweeney Todd' film were shown.
Donned in black, as one might expect of the auteur known for his macabre work, Burton spoke about his career between the screening of clips of his previous work - segmented into blockbusters (ie. "Batman," "Batman Returns"), animation ("The Nightmare Before Christmas") and collaborations with Johnny Depp ("Edward Scissorhands").
Burton peppered his conversation with several bits of trivia - including how Depp so eagerly wanted to wear a prosthetic nose to play Ichabod Crane in "Sleepy Hollow" and how the actor's hair in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" was inspired by Vogue editor Anna Wintour's well-known bob.
Turning to his upcoming stab at the movie musical genre with Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's darkly operatic tale, he admitted his trepidation. "None of them are singers," he said about lead actors Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman and Sacha Baron Cohen - but they all reveled in the challenge. He noted his approach to "Sweeney" was inspired by the more-seamless interpolation of music into the action of "Hammer Horror" films. Burton also revealed that following an earlier draft of the film (adapted by John Logan), he "put more of the music back in."
Prior to the screening of the scenes, Burton offered this set-up: "We see Sweeney when he comes home, when he gets pissed and when he gets to work."
The first clip screened was "My Friends," the scene when Lovett returns the barber's (formerly known as Benjamin Barker) straight blades. Depp fans may be initially put-off by the actor breaking - or rather sliding - into song, but the star can hold a note. He gives Sweeney a voice slightly more rockish than the traditionally operatic tone. Sweeney's songs are deeply rooted in character - a fact Sondheim himself noted in giving his blessing of the actor known for his dramatic chops. Carter is briefly heard in softly accompanying Depp as he gnashes his lips and teeth in reverence of his razors, ending "At last, my arm is complete again!" The Sondheim score then swells as the shot zooms out of the window of Todd's shop atop Lovett's pieshop to reveal the dank streets of London.
"Epiphany" was the next clip, featuring Depp as Sweeney singing to seemingly uninterested prospective clients and denizen of Fleet Street as he walks the cobblestones amongst them. The shot then cuts to Lovett breaking Todd out of his waking dream back into the shop.
The final clip shown, "Johanna," reveals the bloody "barber-y" of Todd at work - no more barbaric than contemporary action movies or the similar slashing in "Eastern Promises." The squeamish may want to take cover from the sound of the freshly-shaven bodies as they reach their final resting place with a rather audible crunch. The song also features Jamie Campbell Bower (as Anthony) en route to the dwelling of his paramour as well as Carter and Laura Michelle Kelly as the ominous Beggar Woman. (Kelly, known to Londoners as the bubbly musical star of 'Mary Poppins', is virtually unrecognizable in her decrepit vagabond role.)
The first tastes of the forthcoming "Sweeney Todd" film were met (after each clip) with eager applause from the Gotham crowd. Fans of Burton's films may liken the feel of his upcoming musical venture as a "Sleepy Hollow" (with its similarly macabre themed tale and period setting) meets "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (with its dark score and fantasy). The film looks to be a welcome addition to the crop of recent movie musicals, providing a darker compliment to the genre.
- Ernio Hernandez
15 November 2007
New York Press*
* Tim Burton, Sweeney Todd promotion (BATMAN mention)
Tim Burton slices 'Sweeney' for Lincoln Center crowd
Of the three scenes from 'Sweeney Todd' that Tim Burton revealed last night during a Lincoln Center tribute at the Rose Theatre, only one displayed factors that both fans of the Broadway musical and the renowned goth filmmaker are respectively hoping for: Yes, Johnny Depp can sing, and oh, yes - there will be blood. "Joanna", the swelling ode to the Demon Barber of Fleet Street's lost daughter, features Depp putting on a solemn face and carrying a tune. It also follows the visual rhythm of several graphic throat slashings committed by the barber as he knocks off one customer after another. The visceral impact of the cheerfully gory montage makes the opening slice in Eastern Promises look like chopping lettuce.
Although 'Sweeney Todd' marks the first full-blown live action musical to come out of Burton's darkly playful oeuvre, it walks and talks like a Burton film. The use of sepia tones, a lead male actor in heavy makeup sporting a hilariously unkempt hairstyle, and sympathy for social pariahs recall pretty much everything good the guy has made since 'Beetlejuice'. Burton said he knew for a long time that the material was a perfect match for his artistic inclinations.
"I saw it when I was a student in London and just thought, 'wow, this is amazing,'" he told the audience. "Then I got involved in other things, but recently, I started thinking about it again. I looked at an old drawing of it that I did - and it looked like Johnny and Helena [Bonham-Carter, Burton's wife and Depp's co-star]. I didn't know either of them at the time, so it seemed kind of like a weird fate to me."
He began the process of culling interest from his favorite star. "I gave Johnny the soundtrack to see what he thought of it. He said, 'I think I can do it.' I knew if he said he could do it, he could do it. It was the first time in our [career together] where he knew he could do it."
As for the singing, Burton seemed satisfied with his stars that weren't veterans of the form. "None of them are professional singers, which gives them an extra layer that you don't necessarily get onstage," adding that lyricist Stephen Sondheim was "very supportive. He was OK with Johnny without hearing him sing, because I think he knew Johnny could pull it off."
The Depp performance came across in the clip reel like 'Edward Scissorhands' in the Victorian Age with a psychotic streak. The scene in which 'Sweeney Todd' discovers his fate as a murderer features several close-ups of the actor's face reflected in the blade, an expressionistic visual scheme that allows Depp to emote while his face grows hideously contorted. "Johnny and I always talk about old horror movie actors, like Boris Karloff," Burton said. "They have a certain acting style that you don't see anymore, based on movement and internalization. This part seemed perfect for that."
But when moderator Richard Pena asked Burton if he would ever make the transition to stage direction, the director withdrew his enthusiasm. "I've always wanted to do something onstage," he said. "I've got a couple ideas, but not for right now." As if to validate his hesitation, he explained himself with an anecdote. "I remember, one time, they wanted me to do a musical version of Batman," he said, shaking his head as the room erupted into laughter. "I could just see him prancing around stage. Batman on ice."
- Eric Kohn
16 November 2007
* Tim Burton, Sweeney Todd promotion (BATMAN mention)
Why bloody Johnny Depp is a cut aboveJohnny Depp's next movie is not for the faint-hearted.
It's a full-blooded, brilliant shocker.
Families, who went in their droves to see Depp make merry as swashbuckling Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies, are advised to think carefully before they venture out in January to see him in the title role of Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street.
I saw footage from Tim Burton's film in New York on Wednesday night and the scenes of Depp slashing throats with blood gushing all over the place are extraordinary. The woman next to me looked away every time Depp took a gleaming silver razor in his hand and went for the jugular. "I can't take my kid to this!" she protested weakly.
"This is what happens in Sweeney Todd, madam," I informed her as politely as I could.
Even so, I'm told Burton has lowered the blood quotient to avoid audience queasiness. But the point of the story is bloody revenge so - hello! - there's gonna be blood.
If the rest of the film is as spine-tinglingly good as the footage I saw featuring Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Laura Michelle Kelly and Jamie Campbell Bower singing three numbers (the movie's based on Stephen Sondheim's awardwinning musical) then it's definitely in as a major contender for the best picture Oscar.
It's shot in dark hues, with the only vivid colour being red: red blood, red barber's pole and the pale red of Ms Bonham Carter's bodice.
Burton said on Wednesday night that he didn't want professional singers in the cast, although he admitted to casting one (Ms Kelly).
But from what I heard, Depp and Ms Bonham Carter sing well - and add dramatic force to the numbers.
In one scene, Depp picks up a razor and sings "these are my friends" and in another, he moves among a crowd checking out throats while singing "I want you bleeders".
Burton said part of his inspiration for Sweeney Todd were the old horror classics starring Boris Karloff.
"This is a simple, old-fashioned melodrama," he said.
He joked that after he shot his two Batman movies, he was asked to turn the caped crusader into a stage musical. "I thought: 'Oh no - Batman On Ice!'"
Sweeney Todd will change the nature of the Oscar and Bafta awards race.
Atonement, Michael Clayton, Into The Wild, No Country For Old Men, The Kite Runner, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, Juno, American Gangster, There Will Be Blood and Charlie Wilson's War (which I see soon) are going to have to fight it out for the final five slots.
It's going to get bloody.
- Baz Bamigboye
8 November 2010
* Batman Musical Mention
Dark Knight hits the
WB to launch 'Batman Live' arena tour
Warner Bros. will launch a Batman arena tour, "Batman Live," next year in the U.K. and Europe ahead of a North American stint planned for 2012.
WB Consumer Products, DC Entertainment and Nick Grace of Water Lane Prods. -- general manager of arena tours including "Walking With Dinosaurs" -- produce the show, which kicks off in Manchester July 20.
Production aims to cater to a broad age demographic with a new Batman tale that incorporates stunts, pyro effects and video. Cast of characters will include all the familiar heroes and villains.
Live entertainment has long been on the radar for the Batman property. A stage musical with music by Jim Steinman was much discussed in the legit world but never got off the ground following a 1999 announcement.
Creative team for "Batman Live" combines legit vets with arena-tour specialists. Legiter Anthony van Laast, choreographer of "Mamma Mia!" and "Sister Act," has been tapped creative director with co-director James Powell. No writer is credited.
Those coming from the arena and concert world include composer James Brett, who penned the score for "Walking With Dinosaurs," and set designer Es Devlin, whose resume includes concerts for Lady Gaga and Kanye West. Circus arts company the Circus Space is onboard for the stuntwork the show will incorporate.
Launch sked has the show playing in the U.K. and Ireland. It will play London Aug. 24-Sept. 4, with dates skedded through early October 2011. Europe and U.S. dates and stops remain to be nailed down.
- Gordon Cox
7 September 2011
* Batman Musical Mention
BREAKING: Gregg Maday Out In Shakeup at Warner Bros Theatrical Ventures
EXCLUSIVE: I'm hearing that Warner Bros Theatrical Ventures is in for a major shakeup, one that will put former studio chief Alan Horn atop the studio's theatrical division. I've heard that Gregg Maday, who has long headed the studio's stage ventures, is being let go, and that Raymond Wu will be elevated to the top slot. Word is that he might share the top job with another executive, and that a top candidate is Mark Kaufman. He's the former New Line executive who moved with Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne when they started the production company Unique Features. But Kaufman was also the hands-on exec in the movie transfer of the hit stage musical Hairspray and the stage transfer of Elf, hatched from the hit New Line movie. I hear all this is imminent. Both execs will report to Horn, who retired as studio chairman last spring. Overhauling this division becomes one of Horn's major priorities.
While Warner Bros has a Sam Mendes-directed adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the offing (it goes into rehearsals in late 2012, after Mendes finishes James Bond, and will open Easter 2013 in the UK), the move follows last weekend's costly closure of Baby It's You, the Floyd Mutrux-penned musical based on the songs of the Shirelles. There was also Lestat, an unsuccessful transfer of Anne Rice's Interview With the Vampire. Elf has been a bright spot and is expected to be trotted out as a holiday perennial. Maday came from CBS Television with big plans to do a musical version of Batman that never really got off the ground. Warner Theatricals makes millions in annual revenues licensing studio library titles for the stage. That includes The Wizard of Oz, which Andrew Lloyd Webber licensed for the musical he's working on, and which has been exploited for the past decade by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The feeling is that the right executives could really turn this theatricals division into something. Disney has been turning its product into musicals for years. Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark shows how complex these transfers can be, but the ones that work pour off cash. Maday had a long time to get it done and just never did. Developing...
- Mike Fleming
17 December 2014
The Daily Beast*
* Batman Musical Mention
Master of the Macabre
Tim Burton Talks 'Big Eyes,' His Taste For the Macabre, and the 'Beetlejuice' Sequel
The visionary filmmaker behind classics like Edward Scissorhands and Batman sat down with Marlow Stern to discuss his latest project and odd passions.
For the past decade or so, Tim Burton was a bit lost in CG land. While fanciful and flamboyant blockbusters like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland boasted impressive visuals, they seemed to lack that touch of soul and childlike wonder that made the master of the macabre's oeuvre so beloved in the first place.
With his latest film, Big Eyes, the Robert Smith-coiffed 56-year-old has stepped back into reality. It also marks a long-awaited reunion with screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who penned the 1994 Burton flick Ed Wood.
Big Eyes is a biopic of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), a mother whose ethereal "big eyes" paintings of children with giant orbs became incredibly successful in the 1950s, earning the praise of Andy Warhol. But Keane's controlling husband, Walter (Christoph Waltz), not only took all the credit for her work, but also mass-produced prints of her paintings against her will. She eventually stands up for herself, and takes her unhinged husband to court to prove authorship over her celebrated (and reviled) works.
Burton is, of course, the filmmaker behind a plethora of oddball classics like Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Ed Wood, and it could be argued that his 1989 flick Batman was the progenitor of today's vast array of superhero films.
The Daily Beast sat down with Burton to discuss Big Eyes and his beautiful, dark, twisted career.
DB: You've been a fan of Margaret Keane's work for quite some time, I hear.
TB: I grew up with those "Big Eyes" prints surrounding my life. I thought of it as very suburban art, because people around didn't have Matisse's or Picasso's - they had Keane's. Growing up in that suburbia and air of pop culture, these images stayed with me like a weird dream. It wasn't until the mid-1990s that a friend of mine told the story because I, like everyone else, had thought Walter Keane did the paintings. When he told me the story I became more fascinated by it, and then I was in San Francisco and got to meet her and even commissioned some paintings from her. Then, a couple of years later, I learned that Scott [Alexander] and Larry [Karaszewski] had written a script. It was these parallel universes colliding.
DB: Was it your wife Helena in the Keane painting you commissioned?
TB: It was Helena and our son. It was quite amazing. And then she did my eyes, and then my kid's eyes. You see her work and it's not hyper-realistic - it has a naïveté to it - but when she painted my eye and my kid's eye, she really captured them. I found that really amazing. Even though some people hate the work, there's something to it that's very powerful.
DB: Artists like Keane and Warhol were so far ahead of their time, because that's where we are right now in the art world with screen prints, posters, Art Basel, you name it. How do you feel about the current relationship between art and consumerism?
TB: For as much as Walter was a maniac, he was at the forefront of printing art. But that's kind of an unanswerable question, though it is part of life, and something that's interesting. It's a fascinating thing to think about: What's good, and what's bad?
DB: Every poster that's printed and sold of a painting has to cheapen the power of the original product though, right?
TB: Somebody said it's like going through the gift shop at the end of the gallery, you know?
DB: It's sort of like how the Native Americans say that every photo of you steals a part of your soul. Perhaps every reproduction of a piece of art steals a part of its soul.
TB: I'm with that! When I grew up, most of the people that had paintings hanging in their living room probably didn't even know the difference between the original and the print; it was just art that was hanging on their wall. That's how uneducated we were about art in the place I grew up in.
DB: With Big Eyes a lot of people, myself included, were glad to see you emerge from the rabbit hole that is the CG world.
TB: Exactly. I just try to treat anything like a necessary tool; I don't try to treat it as anything else. On something like Alice, that movie was the most abstract, bizarre one, and I don't think I'll ever do anything like that again because there was never anything - no one was acting to anything. Alice was different sizes every time, I didn't do motion capture, and every element utilized a different technique. And because it was that way, I didn't know what the movie was until the very, very, very last minute, like a week before it was released. That was really terrifying. And the composers are composing to nothing. It was weird.
DB: And that's so different from a film like The Nightmare Before Christmas where you have a huge team handcrafting every character and set from scratch.
TB: That's why I still love stop-motion. It's a beautiful process, and I love the handmade quality of things. Even on Beetlejuice, we were doing just really cheesy effects. Now, again, I'll use CG in some cases, but even when we do it, we always try to do things live. When you see an old James Bond movie, you realize that they were actually doing it, and you watch CG movies and realize that, yes, they may be great and look real, but there's a little bit of that soul missing.
DB: You mentioned Beetlejuice, and there were reports that a sequel was happening featuring the original cast of Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder. Is that still in the cards?
TB: Well, let's put it this way - we're thinking about it, there's a script, and I really miss working with Michael.
DB: He's so great in Birdman.
TB: I haven't seen that yet! I hear it's amazing.
DB: Is this script the unproduced Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian that was circulating some time ago?
TB: No, not that one. But I really miss working with Michael. He's so amazing and the only guy that could do that. It's such a cathartic character that I'd love to revisit, so it's closer than ever I'd say.
DB: Edward Scissorhands is a family favorite. When I studied in London back in 2005, I actually saw the ballet, too. Were there ever plans for a sequel to Scissorhands, or a continuation of that story?
TB: That ballet was weird, wasn't it? You know, I feel the same way about that that I do about The Nightmare Before Christmas. When it came out, it didn't do that well but has grown over the years. With those kinds of things, it's good to protect them because it's a fable and a fairytale in a way and you want to leave it be so it keeps them protected. Some things are great to have sequels, but for me, I want to protect those because it keeps it special to me.
DB: Are those your two favorite films you've made?
TB: I like all of them, in a way, but I like Scissorhands and Ed Wood. You make a connection to everything and find yourself in it, and I loved doing Sweeney Todd because I thought, "Well, that character is me." But, yeah, Beetlejuice, Scissorhands, and Ed Wood are my favorites. You find love in each one of them. I can't watch any of them, but I feel them.
DB: For Big Eyes, you commissioned a pair of songs by Lana Del Rey. You two seem to have similar artistic sensibilities, both very interested in the macabre.
TB: I don't know her that well, but I can certainly hear it in her voice! I love her voice. I'm always a bit wary of putting music in, but her voice is so beautiful, and when I put it in that sequence, it really heightened it because it's a huge turning point for Margaret Keane in the film. The weight and power and timelessness of Lana really fit that.
DB: Where does your fascination with the macabre come from?
TB: From living in Burbank, I guess! It's more macabre than you might imagine. For whatever reason, I grew up watching and loving horror movies - perhaps as a reaction to the environment I was growing up in. I always saw the horrific side of this seemingly benign environment. I always felt very uncomfortable, and like an alien. I always loved monster movies because I identified with the monster and connected with it. So that time, and growing up in that environment, connected me to those films.
DB: Do you ever feel like Cassandra? With Batman and Planet of the Apes, you seem to be operating around 15 years ahead of the culture.
TB: Well, Batman got really lambasted for being "too dark." It did well financially, but critically, it wasn't one of the most well-received films of the year.
DB: Critics get it wrong quite a bit. Even The Shining was up for several Razzies.
TB: That's what I like about this, and Ed Wood. And Pee-wee's Big Adventure was on a lot of year-end 10 worst movies of the year lists, so I've definitely been there.
DB: With Batman, you were way ahead of the game as far as this superhero hysteria we're currently enveloped in.
TB: It's amazing that it keeps going on and on, and mining the exact same territory. The positive thing is that when I did the first one, the word "franchise" hadn't even been created. I'd only heard about the word afterwards!
DB: Pee-wee was also a family favorite, and we caught the show on Broadway. There was talk of a Judd Apatow-produced Pee-wee film getting made a few years back. Is that happening?
TB: I don't know! I have no idea. I remember when we were making the film that Paul joked that in 20 years time we should do the Sunset Boulevard version of Pee-wee... so there's always time for that!
DB: You're working on Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children next with Eva Green, right?
TB: I just love her. She's one of the most mysterious people I've ever met; she has this real, old silent movie star persona.
DB: I heard that at one point you were trying to put together a Batman musical on Broadway. What happened there?
TB: They approached me about that and I was interested because I liked Jim Steinman; I met him a few times, and thought he did some great stuff. But at the end of the day, seeing this guy prancing around and singing, I don't know. Look what happened to Spider-Man, right? [Laughs]
- Marlow Stern
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Image by Peter de Sève