Chicago Ignites Fiddler, and Maybe Sweeney

Chicago | Oscars | Harvey Weinstein

Chicago Ignites Fiddler, and Maybe Sweeney

The astounding box-office success of Chicago is about to trigger a lot of onscreen singing and dancing.

First off, producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan are preparing a TV version of Fiddler on the Roof. This new version, which will star Alias head spy Victor Garber as Tevye, is designed to replace the original, unexceptional big-screen Fiddler from the 1970s.

Robert Allan Ackerman, who directed the Emmy-winning Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows, will direct Garber and company. There's talk that Andrea Martin will play Tevye's wife Golde. Altogether, it's not bad. Meron and Zadan already have a terrific track record with reclaiming musicals (Gypsy, Cinderella), so they're on their way.

Meantime, everyone wants to know what Chicago director Rob Marshall might do next. Certainly producer Marty Richards wants to hold on to him, and Marshall has proven himself as a director of difficult screen musicals. So what's next?

Richards says, "Sweeney Todd. Two weeks ago I put in the call to Steve Sondheim just to start talking about it."

Marshall, of course, would create an incredible version of Sweeney Todd. He also told me that the idea appealed to him, although "it would have to be very dark — the whole thing would have to be there, including the bloody aspect of it."

Sweeney, if you don't know, is the demon barber who slits the throats of his customers. They are then made into pies by his colleague, Mrs. Lovett.

Song for song, Sweeney Todd might be Sondheim's best musical, but it's resisted a proper screen transfer. This might be the moment, though. We'll have to stay tuned....

Oscars Honor Lawrence of Arabia — and No One Else

The Academy governors have spoken: Only Peter O'Toole will get an honorary statue this year. The star of Lawrence of Arabia, nominated seven times and very much an international star, will be alone in that category.

This can't be a happy day for those who've been agitating over the years for other stars like Doris Day and Richard Widmark who've been patiently waiting for some kind of acknowledgement from the Academy.

At the same time it is a little odd that, for the Academy's 75th anniversary, they couldn't think of anyone who deserved either the prestigious Irving Thalberg Award or their humanitarian prize, the Jean Hersholt Award. Last year, Arthur Hiller got the latter, while Robert Redford and Sidney Poitier received honorary statues.

Granted, Oscar show producer Gil Cates may have asked that no extra awards be handed out so that the show doesn't become unmanageably long. I hear he's planning a salute to all living Oscar winners, and is hoping to have as many as possible on stage for a special presentation. Still, just Peter O'Toole?

The board of governors, by the way, includes producer Frank Pierson, several producers and executives and two actors: Kathy Bates and Tom Hanks.

Day and Widmark are not the only older big stars who've never gotten Oscars. Lena Horne, Van Johnson, Ingmar Bergman (who won the Thalberg Award in 1970) and many others are out there.

This would also have been a great chance to give producer Robert Evans a citation, especially since this was the year his own film, The Kid Stays in the Picture, came out.

The Academy doesn't seem to realize that, with so many other televised awards shows with the same nominees, etc. that have already been broadcast, it's the extra awards that may pull in a much needed TV audience.

N. Y. Daily News Blind Item Can See!

A not so "blind" item in the New York Daily News on Sunday may cause some trouble Monday.

Weekly columnist Michael Gross, obviously writing about Miramax's Harvey Weinstein, wrote that someone named "Max" who was considered a "bully" was looking for $500 million in capital in Canada in order to escape the claws of Disney, which owns Miramax. Or to bail itself out over Gangs of New York.

While Weinstein is certainly a lightning rod for gossip items, none of this makes any sense —even to the passive observer. Miramax is safely ensconced at Disney, and the company's exposure on Gangs has been covered. The total box office take is around $65 million so far — $5 million more than they needed.

Miramax has actually never been a big spender on films, and a better Gross item might have been something snarky about Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio, which was dead on arrival, or Bruno Barretto's much-postponed (and said to be awful) A View from the Top, starring Gwyneth Paltrow.

But the idea of $500 million needed at Miramax (also the company which will distribute a documentary I co-produced) is kind of funny. That company pinches pennies so hard they scream.