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Hollywood bets big on “Beast,” considers remake of “My Fair Lady”

Hollywood bets big on “Beast,” considers remake of “My Fair Lady”

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Are you a fan of “Beauty and the Beast”? I hope so.  Because – over the next few years – three different versions of this “Tale as Old as Time” are going to turn up at theaters near you.

First up is the re-rendered version of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 1991 hit. Which turns this Academy Award-winning hand-drawn animated feature into a Disney Digital 3D release.  Look for this dimensionally enhanced version of “Beauty & the Beast” to bow on February 12, 2010.

Beastly Logo
Copyright 2009 CBS Films, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Then – on July 10, 2010 – CBS Films rolls out a brand-new take on this classic fairytale. Which (I can guarantee you) won’t feature any singing teapots and/or dancing candelabras. “Beastly” (which is based on Alex Flinn’s novel ) takes more of a “Twilight” approach to this material. Reimagining this French fable as an edgy teen romance.

Set in modern day New York, “Beastly” tells the story of Kyle Kingson (Alex Pettyfer), a handsome and wealthy teen who has a decidedly cruel streak. He delights in tormenting the less affluent, more unattractive kids who attend the same private school as Kyle. But Kingson more than meets his match when he goes after Goth classmate, Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen).

Alex Pettyfer as Kyle
Alex Pettyfer as Kyle Kingson. Copyright 2009 CBS Films, Inc. All Rights Reserved

When Kyle embarrasses Kendra in front of the whole school, she responds by casting a spell on this self-centered, heartless teen. Which turns Kingson into this horrible, unrecognizable monster.

You know how the rest of the story goes, right? Repulsed by his appearance, Kingson’s father banishes his son to Brooklyn. Where – as Kyle continues his high school education with the help of a blind tutor (Neil Patrick Harris) – he struggles to find a way to break Kendra’s curse and then return to his original, far more handsome form.

Unfortunately for Kingson, the only way that this enchantment can be broken is if someone will love Kyle as he is. Which – given this teen’s ugly exterior and equally vile interior – looks like it’s never going to happen.

Alex Pettyfer as the Monster in "Beastly"
... and the same actor in monster mode.
Copyright 2009 CBC Films, Inc. All Rights Reserved

“So why should Disneyana fans be interested in ‘Beastly’ ?,” you ask. Well, wait ‘til you hear who CBS Films hired for the Belle role. It’s “High School Musical” star Vanessa Hudgens, who plays Lindy, the daughter of a drug addict that Kingson blackmails into leaving the girl in his care.

In press materials that were released earlier this week, CBS Films calls “Beastly” “ … a hyper-modern retelling of the classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’ story.” Based on Alex Flinn’s novel, this edgy teen romance is currently being shot in Montreal. With director Daniel Barnz working off of his own adaptation of Flinn’s book.

Mind you, if you’re just not ready for an edgy teen romance version of “Beauty and the Beast” but would still like to see how this classic fairytale would play out as a live-action film, may I direct your attention to Adriana Marmiroli’s May 2009 interview with Disney Legend Alan Menken. Who – as he was talking with this reporter from “La Stampa” (i.e. Italy’s leading daily newspaper) about his work schedule – Menken mentioned several projects that he’s currently working on :

Alan Meken
Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken

“ … I am preparing the soundtracks of two Disney animated feature: Rapunzel and The Snow Queen, in addition (to) a live-action musical film about Beauty and the Beast, plus a new (Broadway) musical that will debut in fall 2010, Leap of Faith.”

Did you catch that part in the middle there? “ … a live-action musical film about Beauty and the Beast …” ?! This concept for a new “Beauty and the Beast” movie actually dates back to Michael Eisner’s days of running the Mouse House.

Back then, Eisner was such a fan of the Broadway musical version of “Beauty and the Beast” that he wanted to preserve the stage show in some way. Depending on when you’d talk with Michael, he’d either propose producing a TV movie version of B & B that could then air on ABC just like Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Cinderella” and “Annie” did back in the late 1990s. Or Eisner would then plan on going all out, insisting that the live-action movie version of Broadway’s “Beauty and the Beast” had to be shot on location in France’s Loire Valley. So that this “Tale as Old as Time” really could be “True as it can be.”

Michael Eisner with Mickey and Minnie Mouse
Michael Eisner & friends. Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

Well, Uncle Michael has been out of power at The Walt Disney Company since September of 2006. But evidently his pet project lives on, given that Menken and his writing partner – Glenn Slater – are supposedly working on a few new songs for this proposed live-action movie musical.

“And when exactly would this live-action remake of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ be put into production?,” you query. From what I’ve been hearing from studio insiders, the original plan was that this film would hit theaters in the late Fall / early winter of 2011 (i.e. the 20th anniversary of the theatrical release of the original animated version of “Beauty and the Beast”). But now that the Disney Digital 3D version of “Beast” is being released in February of 2010 (and – 8 months later -- will then be followed by the Diamond Edition Blu-ray / DVD of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” ), the thinking in-house now seems to be that there really needs to be some distance between the Disney Digital 3D / Blu-ray DVD versions of “Beast” and the new live-action remake. Which is why (lately, anyway) I’ve been hearing that this proposed production has been bumped out to 2016 (i.e. the 25th anniversary of “Beauty and the Beast” ‘s release).

Now that I know that it may strike some of you as bizarre that The Walt Disney Company would ever consider remaking “Beauty and the Beast” as a live-action musical. But let’s remember that this is the Mouse House that we’re talking about here. Which just revealed that it has a Maleficent movie in the works. So just because an idea sounds unlikely doesn’t mean that it’s not actually happening.

Julie Andrews in the original Broadway production of My Fair Lady circa 1956
Julie Andrews in the original Broadway production of "My Fair Lady" circa 1956

More to the point, this is Hollywood of 2009 that we’re discussing here. A town that – in order to mitigate all risk at the box office -- has gone sequel and remake-crazy. Case in point: Guess which classic musical CBS Films is currently toying with redoing? Would you believe “My Fair Lady”?

Yep, CBS Films now has a remake of this Academy Award-winner on its development slate as a possible co-production with Columbia Pictures. And given that Julie Andrews missed out on the chance to appear in the original Warner Bros. version back in 1964 … Well, wouldn’t be cool if CBS Films / Columbia Pictures tried to make up for that oversight by offering Andrews a role in the remake? As – say – Henry Higgins’ mother?

Wouldn’t it be loverly – after all these years – if Julie Andrews did finally get to appear in the motion picture version of “My Fair Lady”?

Your thoughts?

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  • Alex Pettyfer is only 19 but he looks 35 in that picture.  Good lord.

  • Maleficent movie? Somebody's a big "Wicked" fan.

  • The my fair lady remake is being written by Emma Thompson. It's set to have Kira Knightly as Eliza. I'm thrilled with the writer but, I HATE Kira Knightly.

  • I can tell, since you didn't bother to get her name right.

    She was very good in Bend It Like Beckham.

  • "She was very good in Bend It Like Beckham."

    But after that....

    I've heard of damning with faint praise, but this has got to be a new variation.

  • I thought the "My Fair Lady" remake was already greenlighted. The only way I'll probably see it though is if they cast Hugh Laurie as Henry Higgins...

    And Jim, giving Audrey Hepburn the role in the original movie was not an oversight. True she might've not originated the role, but she redefined it as her own. And she deserved the Academy Award. I like Julie Andrews and I like Mary Poppins, but Eliza Doolittle was a much harder character to play. They only gave the Oscar to Andrews to stick it to Hepburn. Jerks...

  • I've read Beastly by Alex Finn and Kyle definitely does NOT look like that under the spell.  He turns into a legit beast with a hairy face and everything...  Oh well, I guess I should just be glad one fo my most favorite books is being put into a movie :D

  • It wouldn't be the first time that Disney would remake a previous work into another format; they've got around three versions of ' A Christmas Carol" , a alternate version of "Treasure Island", not to mention turning some of their theme park rides into movies. To protest that Disney may do a live version of B&B is like claiming the rights to something thet someone else owns the rights to. Linda Wolverton wrote the script, Alan wrote lthe score and so on, so really Disney owns the right to their version of the tale and that is that. Personaly in my humble opinion if they do recreate the film/broadway into a live version it just may work by indeed preserving the Broadway look and approaching it like Ron Howard did when he worked on Dr. Seus' 'How the Grinch stole Christmas, since the Broadway version as well as the animated version is very family oriented. It wouldn't work if they approached it the way ,The Phantom of the Opera' by Andrew Loyd Webber was filmed. Just food for thought.

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