OK, fasten your seat belts, because this is one of those rumor-dogged projects where it’s hard to sort out the fact from the fluff. But, after watching Keira Knightley sing in “The Edge of Love” this week (not particularly well, it must be said, though she looked smashing), I wondered what was going on with the “My Fair Lady” remake. This is, of course, a truly awful idea, except that Emma Thompson is writing the screenplay, and I have governed my life by the principle that anything Emma Thompson does is absolutely OK. (I mean, the woman writes her screenplays in longhand, for heaven’s sake.) So I’m torn.
Anyway, Knightley has long been signed to play Eliza, and Variety blogger Anne Thompson, who knows what’s what, quoted ET a few months ago as saying that her first choice for Henry Higgins would be Hugh Laurie. Not bad. She notes, though, that of course casting is up to the eventual director, and here’s where the rumor-of-the-week (well, OK, the month) stuff comes in: Entertainment Weekly says that Danny “Slumdog Millionaire” Boyle has been in talks to direct the remake. (Stephen Daldry has also been mentioned.)
As it happens, I asked Boyle last fall if he was interested in directing a musical. (Could I possibly be clairvoyant? No; he was in town to talk about “Slumdog,” and said how much fun he had directing the closing musical number, so it seemed an obvious follow-up.) Here’s what he said:
“‘Millions’ [his charming 2004 film about a couple of kids who find a stolen cache of money], we were going to do as a musical. We thought, right early on, in the writing stage, we could make this a musical. it’s not often you get that idea. We never had enough money or chutzpah, I guess, to do it. But we should have done it. I think it’s the holy grail for a director, a musical. Could you do a musical, could you do a modern- day, new-music musical? I’d love to have a go at it at some point. It’s the most difficult thing to do.”
Hmm. “My Fair Lady” isn’t exactly “modern-day, new-music,” but I’d be fascinated to see what Boyle’s vision could bring to it. Then again, why doesn’t he — or whoever ends up tackling this project — make something new instead? Why mess with something beautiful, now that it’s far too late to rectify the Audrey-Hepburn-for-Julie-Andrews wrong? (Not that I don’t love Hepburn, who’s lovely, but really, this movie should have gone to Andrews.) Why subject any actor to comparisons to Rex Harrison, who owns Professor Higgins?
But then again, Emma Thompson is writing the screenplay. I’m running out of hands here. Stay tuned. In the meantime, here’s a sweet “My Fair Lady” moment.