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Playwright-director Arthur Laurents regrets giving Warner Bros. permission to adapt Gypsy for the big screen.
In an interview with Behind the Curtain‘s Frank Rizzo, Laurents, who wrote the original 1959 Broadway musical and directed three Broadway revivals of it, said composer Stephen Sondheim talked him out of pursuing the remake.
“He said, ‘What is the point of it?’ ” Laurents says of his conversation with Sondheim. “And then Sondheim told me something that he got from the British — and it’s wonderful. He said, ‘You want a record because the theater is ephemeral. But that’s wrong. The theater’s greatest essence is that it is ephemeral. You don’t need a record. The fact that it’s ephemeral means you can have different productions, different Roses on into infinity.’ ”
Laurents concludes, “So I don’t want it now. I don’t want a definitive record. I want it to stay alive.”
The original Broadway version of Gypsy was made into a film starring Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood in 1962. Barbra Streisand was in talks with Warner Bros. to star as Mama Rose in the remake, with Joel Silver attached to produce.
“I think [Streisand] is disappointed. She wanted very much to do it,” Laurents says. “That would have been a good exit for her career. [King’s Speech director] Tom Hooper wanted to direct it. I think he’s wonderful.”
A source says Streisand was “seriously engaged in the idea of doing it,” adding that Laurents is “notoriously prickly.” He goes back with Streisand to her first Broadway performance in I Can Get It For You Wholesale, which he wrote and directed in 1959.
The observer notes that at 93, Laurents was probably overwhelmed by the prospect of making the film and dealing with Streisand (known for her perfectionism) and the often-demanding Silver.
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