Deep Inside Hollywood: “Wizard of Oz” remake

184
Book cover of
Book cover of "The Wizard of Oz, 1957 book edition by L Frank Baum

Will we have a Wizard of Oz remake?

New Line Cinema is teaming up with Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Nicole Kassell (Watchmen) for a remake of The Wizard of Oz. Kassell will direct, but there’s no cast yet, no script to speak of, and no word on a production timeline. What there is, though, is an intention, not only to make a fresh adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz but to make it memorable and distinct from the classic 1939 film that starred a 17-year-old Judy Garland in one of the most indelible performances of her career.

Udo Kier wearing a grey jacket
Udo Kier photo by Denis Makarenko

Should this be done? Can it be done? Tough questions, really, especially when you’re talking about a film that made cinema history, routinely winds up on “all-time best” lists, and has shaped queer culture over the 20th century, as well. There’s obviously no choice but to be a little skeptical. But still, it can’t really hurt to try, right? We are willing to believe because we live in hope for good things, so watch this space for updates.

Udo Kier’s Swan Song

Todd Stephens might not be a household name, but queer kids who grew up in the late ’90s and early 2000s have a special place in their hearts for the 1998 coming out comedy he wrote, Edge of Seventeen. He’d later go on to write and direct two more youth-oriented features, Gypsy 83 and Another Gay Movie.

But the year 2021 finds him with a new movie set to premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March, one about elder queer life. It’s called Swan Song and stars Udo Kier as a former hairdresser, restless and lonely in a nursing home, who breaks out and walks across his small town in order to fulfill the wishes of a recently deceased former client. Her will asks that he be the one to give her her final hairdo, and he’s determined to make it happen.

The bittersweet comedy also stars Jennifer Coolidge, Linda Evans, and Michael Urie. And because SXSW is virtual this year, you can get a ticket and watch at home without having to travel to Austin. Fix your hair up for it anyway. Make an effort.

Comic Amber Ruffin joins Some Like It Hot

The stage musical version of Some Like it Hot is due on Broadway in 2022, and the production has scored the talents of two acclaimed writers: Matthew López, whose play about queer men and the legacy of AIDS, The Inheritance, has 11 Tony Nominations; and Amber Ruffin, the host of Peacock’s late-night comedy series The Amber Ruffin Show, who also writes for Late Night with Seth Meyers. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray) are working on the music, and Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, The Prom) will direct.

The musical is based on the classic drag comedy that starred Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe. With so many queer men on board in the creative process, this story will most certainly take on added dimensions that were only suggested or sub textual when the film was made. And Ruffin, who is heterosexual and hilarious, is the first Black woman hired to work on the show. Your 2021 homework, then, is to watch the original film, get familiar with Ruffin’s Peacock show—because it’s a brilliant example of how to make a late-night talk show work in a studio-audience-less pandemic—and get a vaccine so you can make it out to Broadway next year.

Fever rises again with Michelle Williams and Todd Haynes

The Peggy Lee biopic, Fever, has been in development, stopping and starting, for at least eight years at this point. The late Nora Ephron wrote an early script, and Todd Haynes has been attached to direct for a long time now, but casting and production schedules have come and gone. Now Michelle Williams has been cast as Lee, and everything seems to be back on track.

Williams has worked with Haynes before on the Bob Dylan-themed film I’m Not Here, and she’s also been circling the Janis Joplin biopic (talk about Development Hell—that one’s been gestating since the early 2000s). Adding fuel to the Fever fire, Billie Eilish is in talks to come aboard as an executive producer, so this thing might finally have its figurative and literal stars aligned to move closer to being on a big screen near you. It’s got us imagining a spooky Eilish cover of Is That All There Is.

Romeo San Vicente’s Peggy Lee karaoke jam is “He’s a Tramp.”