MGM Fires Up New 'Pink Panther' Movie With 'Simpsons' Director (Exclusive)
Cue the Pink Panther theme song.
MGM is hoping to introduce The Pink Panther to a whole new generation of moviegoers with a live-action/animation hybrid feature that will focus not on the classic character of inspector Jacques Clouseau but rather on the animated pink feline that appeared in the original movies’ opening credits.
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David Silverman, the veteran director and producer of The Simpsons who also directed The Simpsons Movie, is attached to helm the project, and is using his Simpsons connections to help with the project: Michael Price, who writes and co-exec produces the show, is in negotiations to write the script.
Walter Mirisch, executive producer of the original Pink Panther films and television series, will serve as the producer of the new film, along with Julie Andrews, the iconic actress who is the widow of Blake Edwards, the man who directed the classic movies.
The Pink Panther was the name of the first of a series of movies from the 1960s and 1970s that featured the misadventures of the buffoonish French detective Clouseau, brought to life by the iconic Peter Sellers, who played the part in most of the movies until his death in 1980.
Apart from Sellers’ brilliance, the movies were also known for Henry Mancini’s jazzy musical stylings over the opening credits, which featured a cartoon panther of a pink shade. The panther never figured into the movies – the title of the first movie, released in 1963, referred to a jewel that thieves were after – but he unintentionally proved to be so popular he was spun off into his own theatrical animated shorts, made by Friz Freleng and David DePatie, one of which won an Oscar. A Saturday morning TV series followed, as did comic books, TV specials, and other entrees into popular culture.
The movies faded in the 1980s, and MGM tried to resuscitate the franchise first in 1993 with Roberto Benigni and, more recently, with Steve Martin, who starred in two movies, one in 2006 and one in 2009.
The latter two were in the traditional mode but Silverman, Mirisch and co. realized that there was only one Sellers and that a different spin was needed -- thus, the CG/live-action hybrid that would focus on the feline, not the detective. "For the first time, the live action franchise will be united with the world-famous cartoon character in a new hybrid feature film," said Mirisch.
Pink Panther still has plenty of currency in today’s world. Witness: A German team had a Pink Panther skating program at the Sochi Olympics while Lady Gaga sported a Pink Panther outfit earlier in March.
The new story will be an international jewel heist caper movie. The Panther will not speak (as in the early shorts) and Clouseau will not appear at all (he does, however, exist in the movie’s mythology). Yes, the Mancini score will be used.
By bringing in Silverman and co., the hope is to make a family movie that will be irreverent, hip in energy, and sophisticated.
“I am delighted that the legacy of Blake’s iconic Pink Panther franchise will continue to grow in its new hybrid form. It is exciting that the quintessential ‘next step’ for our beloved Panther will be enjoyed by a fourth generation of audiences. I feel that Blake is encouraging us on,” said Andrews in a statement.
MGM’s senior vp production Cassidy Lange will oversee the film for the studio.
Silverman is repped by Verve.
by Lesley Goldberg