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NBC is going big for its upcoming live performance of Peter Pan.
Oscar winner Christopher Walken will star as Captain Hook in NBC’s follow-up to The Sound of Music, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt is expected to make the announcement during his session Sunday at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour.
The casting reunites Walken with Craig Zadan and Neil Meron after his starring role in the producers’ film adaptation of Hairspray.
“He’s one of the most unique actors in our business,” Greenblatt said. “He might really just be a song and dance man at heart. … This might be the first tap dancing Captain Hook you’ve ever seen.” Speaking to reporters after his Sunday session, the exec said that he was out to Kristen Bell to star as Peter but they couldn’t work out timing due to her commitment to Showtime’s House of Lies.
“We were talking about doing it with a man at one point, but we’ve had several women who wanted to do it and they’re either busy or their schedules don’t work. It’s not like we can film this at any time; I need this person from Aug. 5-Dec. 5, so that knocks out the Kristen Bells of the world, who was somebody I talked to about doing it and she was interested but she’s doing House of Lies,” he said, noting he spoke with the Frozen star before she announced her pregnancy. “It’s tricky finding the right person in the schedule that we need it but we’re actually close. [Peter is] going to be female.”
Based on James M. Barrie‘s revered book and musical, NBC’s new take, which hails from Universal Television, comes after the network in 1955 staged a live broadcast of the Broadway production of Peter Pan that opened in 1954. The show, starring Tony winners Mary Martin and Cyril Richard drew 65 million viewers — the highest rating for a single night program at the time. NBC later broadcast the show live again in 1956 and 1960. It was also the first broadcast of a musical in color.
“The exhilarating thing about doing these live musicals is giving the stage to a thrilling performer like Chris, and seeing his once-in-a-lifetime performance unfold at the same moment the audience is watching at home,” executive producers Zadan and Meron said.
Added Walken: “I started my career in musicals and it’s wonderful after all this time, at this point in my career, to be in this classic musical I watched as a child and to work with Neil Meron and Craig Zadan again after Hairspray. It’s a chance to put on my tap shoes again.”
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Walken has appeared in more than 100 feature films and TV series. He won the Oscar for his role in the The Deer Hunter and was nominated for Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can.” His credits also include film musicals including Pennies From Heaven in which he danced to “Let’s Misbehave.” He’s currently dancing again in Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of Broadway hit Jersey Boys. His 13 Broadway credits include his Tony-nominated performance in James Joyce’s The Dead as well as for the 2010 play A Behanding in Spokane, in which he also played a man with a severed hand.
Walken, repped by ICM Partners, joins Dustin Hoffman and Colin O’Donoghue, who played Hook in the feature film and on ABC’s Once Upon a Time.
NBC’s decision to repeat the live musical performance comes as broadcast networks are looking to draw eyeballs (and awards-season cachet) in an increasingly competitive landscape and DVR era.
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