The shark has big teeth, dear. It’s about to chew up and spit out the late famed singer Bobby Darin.
Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, who is about to hit movie theaters in K-Pax and The Shipping News, has dropped out of making the big-screen version of the musical Chicago with Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta Jones so he can play Darin on the screen. However, getting from point A to point B on this one sounds nearly impossible.
It seems that there's another Darin movie somewhere out there — and it may begin shooting before the end of this year. And that’s where things get really confusing and interesting.
Spacey, who recently wowed the audience at TNT's John Lennon tribute with his rendition of "Mind Games,” wants to sing the Darin hits like “Beyond the Sea” and “Mack the Knife” himself. However, an old clause in the contract for rights to Darin’s life story specified that only the original recordings could be used.
Darin’s rights are controlled by his son, Dodd, whose mother is Hollywood legend Sandra Dee. I am told that Dodd Darin also has the right to approve the licensing of certain songs that are co-published by him and the songwriting team of Mike Stoller and Jerry Lieber.
See how complicated this gets?
At one point, when the Darin movie was under option at Warner Bros., a lot of famous screenwriters took a whack at it. Among them: James Toback, Paul Schrader and Paul Attanasio. The only one anyone really liked, according to Steve Blauner, Darin’s old agent and friend, was by Lewis Colick (author of the new John Travolta effort, Domestic Disturbance). Barry Levinson had planned to direct the movie, but that idea eventually died on the vine.
One thing’s for certain: Kevin Spacey is focused on playing this part. “This is a very important movie for Kevin,” a friend of his tells me. “He considers it his most important project ever. He’s very involved in it personally.”
Bobby Darin, if you don’t know, died in 1973 after complications from heart surgery. He was 37 years old and had been married to and divorced from Sandra Dee, with whom he had Dodd — the couple's only son. This pair's modern-day equivalent would be like matching the aforementioned Zellweger with someone like Enrique Iglesias. Darin had a long, huge run as the top singer of his day, driving female fans crazy and making a name for himself as a sort of junior Sinatra.
Making Darin’s story all the more tantalizing for Hollywood is this tidbit: like Jack Nicholson, he eventually discovered that the woman who raised him, whom he believed was his sister, was really his mother.
But now Blauner and Darin Dodd may be prepping their own Bobby Darin film. Although there are no details, Spacey and his production company might be beaten to the punch. In this other version, for which the songs have been approved, there will be no singing by the actor playing Bobby Darin. The voice will be the original.
Blauner is blunt about Spacey’s plans. “I think he’s a great actor, but he can’t sing. I can’t be part of that. Bobby used to say, People hear what they see, and I think that’s what happened on the Lennon special.”
Blauner also points out that Spacey is now older than Darin was when he died, and that Spacey could only play a young Darin “shot through gauze.” Blauner declined to say who he wanted to play Darin instead of Spacey.
In the end, though, the whole business comes down to who gets the rights to the songs. Without them, a Bobby Darin movie would be impossible. (This is what happened to Merchant Ivory’s Surviving Picasso when the artist’s estate forbade the filmmakers from using the real art.)
Blauner says that Lieber and Stoller, who administer the Darin songwriting publishing rights, recently got a message that Spacey was interested in the songs. So far no decision has been made, but Spacey singing Darin’s songs is probably not something we’re going to see very soon.
Kevin Spacey’s manager and publicist, by the way, will only say that the Darin story is in development.
You’re going to be hearing a lot in the next few weeks about a new French movie called Amelie. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Amelie is a unique and memorable comedy that borders on sheer genius. There’s never been anything quite like it.
At the premiere of Amelie last night I ran into composer Angelo Badalamenti, David Lynch’s personal composer and a guy who’s written about 40 major movie scores. He wrote the famous Twin Peaks score, which is still the bestselling movie soundtrack of original music ever.
I always thought Angelo Badalamenti had to be a composer from Italy. Wrong! He’s a 63-year old Brooklynite who lives in northern New Jersey with his lovely wife, Lonny. Who knew? Winner of many awards but no Oscars, Angelo is one of the most popular composers in Hollywood. You can hear his romantically edgy music in Lynch’s current Mulholland Drive.
A few years ago, Angelo told me, he was doing some orchestrations for Paul McCartney in London. The former Beatle told him this story: Paul was invited to play at Queen Elizabeth’s birthday party around 1990. When he met the Queen he told her he was honored to be selected, and the Queen responded: “I’m sorry I can’t stay. It’s almost 8 p.m. I have to be home to watch Twin Peaks.”
True or not, it’s a great story. Badalamenti, who got his start at the Brill Building with Carole King, Neil Sedaka and the like, is ready for some honors, even knighthood, your Highness. He deserves it.
Now that a billion dollars has been raised over the last month, people are starting to ask who's getting all the money intended for "victims and families of victims of the World Trade Center disaster."
Last night, celebrities yet again shook down donors for a fireman's fund in New York. But as many have now pointed out, New York City fireman — the best in the world — are part of a municipal union with a very active pension fund and insurance.
More charity events are on the way, but I think people are wise to start making specific inquiries about where their donations are headed. Also, it's time to hear not only from families of firemen and policemen, but also from the forgotten victims of the September 11th disaster — like window-washers and custodians.