By Romeo San Vicente
Richard Gere’s up for prison
Golden Globe-winner Richard Gere was conspicuously absent from this year’s list of Oscar nominees for his role as slick lawyer Billy Flynn in “Chicago.” But now rumor has it the actor may be looking at yet another prison musical. “Chicago” songwriters John Kander and Fred Ebb are hoping to get their musical version of “Kiss of the Spider Woman” to the big screen, and the duo have their sights on Gere to portray Molina, a gay man behind bars in a South American jail. In the moving story, Molina befriends – then falls in love with – his cell mate, a political prisoner named Valentin. Ebb recently told the press he’d love for Gere to star because “I’m crazy about him. He’s my new favorite actor.” The role could give Gere good Oscar karma – after all, William Hurt won Best Actor for playing Molina in the 1986 nonmusical version of the film, which was adapted from gay novelist Manuel Puig’s novel.
Miramax has secured the movie rights to the musical comedy “Guys & Dolls,” as well as to the collection of short stories by Damon Runyon on which it is based. Rumor has it that “XXX” hunk Vin Diesel is itchin’ to burst into song as Nathan Detroit, who was played by the considerably less brawny Frank Sinatra in the 1955 movie. The plot centers on New York City gambler Detroit’s bet with fellow craps junkie Sky Masterson that he can’t get the next “doll” he sees – who turns out to be a Salvation Army missionary – to fall in love with him. The queer producing team of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (“Chicago,” TV’s “The Music Man”) is in place for the remake, and by securing the rights to the source material, they have the option of updating the story from its original ’20s setting.
Mr. Holland’s new opus
Emmy Award-winning homo director Todd Holland, who helped create “Malcolm in the Middle,” is back in business with the Fox Network – but this time he’s going mystical. Holland, who has also directed episodes of “Felicity,” “Relativity,” and last year’s David E. Kelley bomb, “Girls Club,” is shooting an as-yet untitled one-hour pilot about a slightly unbalanced woman (played by Canadian hottie Caroline Dhavernas) who hears voices from the inanimate objects in her Niagara Falls gift shop and uses the information she gets from them to improve the lives of others. Initially titled “Maid of the Mist,” the pilot is being described as a cross between “Donny Darko” and “Amelie.”
Gee! men singing!
Harry Shearer, the voice of Smithers on “The Simpsons” – and of Mr. Burns, the object of Smithers’ affection – has dusted off an old project about one of America’s favorite closet cases. At this year’s Aspen Comedy Festival, Shearer and co-writer Tom Leopold brought in a packed house for a staged reading of their comedy “J. Edgar! The Musical,” featuring Kelsey Grammer, John Goodman, and Michael McKean. The play explores the love affair between legendary FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and his longtime “assistant,” Clyde Tolson. “J. Edgar!” was first performed on L.A. public radio about 10 years ago, but with the success of campy Broadway hits like “The Producers” and “Hairspray,” Shearer decided to revisit it. “J. Edgar” will hopefully make its way to the L.A. stage soon.