Nora Ephron – who's got hits such as "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You've Got Mail" on her resumé — rarely goes astray. But her upcoming take on the TV show "Bewitched" sounds odd, to say the least.
Fans of the 1960s show, which starred the late Elizabeth Montgomery as sexy housewife and witch Samantha Stephens, may be a little confused when they learn of the premise for the big-screen version.
Instead of simply making a funny comedy, Ephron and her sister Delia have written a new take on the story. Their "Bewitched" is about a bunch of Hollywood actors who are making a movie of "Bewitched."
In other words, each of the film's actors — Nicole Kidman (Samantha), Will Ferrell (Darrin), Shirley MacLaine (Endora), Michael Caine (Maurice), Steve Carell (Uncle Arthur) — will also be playing another character as well, a "real-life" actor who's playing the parts of the TV characters.
Most of the casting seems exactly right. But Carell is a strange choice for Uncle Arthur, memorably played by Paul Lynde in the series. As much as Carell is a total joy to watch in "Anchorman," he seems too young, among other things, to play Nicole Kidman's uncle. Uncle Arthur is more Charles Nelson Reilly, if you know what I mean.
It's possible that this will all work once it's on screen, but you do wonder sometimes why movie studios go to such great lengths to make simple things difficult.
Right now, Adam McKay, Ferrell's writing partner, is giving the Ephron sisters' script a "polish" to make it more Ferrellesque. I did get to ask him recently about rumors — and high hopes — that halfway through the movie, the actor playing Darrin would change without explanation, but it's not going to happen.
In the run of the series, Dick York was replaced by Dick Sargent for health reasons. It would have been very hip to see Jim Carrey start out as Darrin, and then have Ferrell end up as him, but it ain't going to happen.
Other actors signed for "Bewitched" are Joan Plowright as bumbling Aunt Clara, Amy Sedaris as nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz and Jason Schwartzman as a character named Richie, who was not in the original series.
Still to be determined are actors to play the critical parts of Larry Tate, the smarmy advertising exec who is Darrin's boss, and Dr. Bombay, the eccentric physician from another dimension.
Of course, I'm assuming they are in the script. The real magic of "Bewitched" lay in its depiction of the vicious world of advertising and Madison Avenue —something that has not changed in 40 years.
It was billed as the "Musicology After-Party," and the tickets were $25 apiece. People who plunked down this amount and went to B.B. King's in Times Square on Tuesday night at midnight assumed that Prince was going to perform some kind of stripped-down show after his second night at Madison Square Garden.
Well, you know what happens when you assume. As Felix once explained to Oscar on "The Odd Couple," you make an "ass" of "u" and "me."
Not only did Prince not play, but all there was on the stage was a deejay spinning tunes. The club filled up with patrons who'd paid for standing-room tickets to see, essentially, nothing.
These customers milled about in front of the stage waiting for something to happen. They may still be there.
Those who took the few tables that management left in place had to order at least a bottle of Champagne for around $125 plus a 20 percent gratuity. Few took the bait, but it wasn't a bad deal if you split the check among five people.
Things didn't look better for last night when Prince's assistant started asking questions during the Tuesday party.
"She wanted to know if the ticket price was more on Wednesday," said a source. "If it was more, he might play. But when she heard it was also $25, she said he probably wouldn't."
By 1 a.m. this morning, there was indeed no sign that Prince would change his mind despite the presence of Spike Lee, Lenny Kravitz and Chris Rock.
Meantime, B.B. King's — which is really Manhattan's best music venue for a show of this size — has been booked by the Republican Party for August 30 and 31. I'm told that ZZ Top has been signed to perform one night, and Dickey Betts, formerly of the Allman Brothers, on the other.
Despite being invited by director Robert Greenwald's office in Los Angeles, this reporter didn't make it into the "premiere" of "Outfoxed" at the New School the other night.
First I was told the event was overbooked, then watched several people admitted instead. I was told later by a spy there were lots of empty seats.
Did they not want someone from Fox in the auditorium? I don't know, but it was a poorly run, botched event.
Nevertheless, I did manage to get a DVD of the documentary, which has already been criticized by the Washington Post. I will let others debate the merits and faults of this film, which looks like it was made for two cents and has a confusing array of talking heads.
I did think it was funny that the final segments are underscored by the piano part of Derek and the Dominos' immortal song "Layla."
As some may know, that whole beautiful instrumental section was written and played by legendary session drummer Jim Gordon, currently serving a life sentence for murdering his own mother in cold blood with a hammer.
When Eric Clapton, who sang and co-wrote the song, re-recorded "Layla" for his "Unplugged" album many years later, he dropped the Gordon part from the song.
Presumably, Gordon will get a royalty from all DVDs of "Outfoxed" that are sold, although Clapton is the one who gets a "thank you" in the film's credits.