Could 'August: Osage County' finally jump to the big screen?
Theater buffs have been curious for a while now about the cinematic fate of “August: Osage County," Tracy Letts' 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning family drama that has been in development as a movie for several years.
Now the film project--which would have Meryl Streep as pill-popping matriarch Violet Weston and Julia Roberts as her complicated adult daughter Barbara--looks to finally be taking a step forward.
An executive at the Weinstein Co., which owns rights to and has been developing the movie, said that a September schedule-opening for both Streep and Roberts could allow the movie to begin shooting in the fall. The executive, Weinstein Co. COO David Glasser, said the goal was for the film to wrap production by the end of 2012 and come out in the 2013 autumn awards season.
According to another person at the company who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to talk about internal matters, Letts, who had been adapting his own play for the screen, recently turned in his screenplay to the company and executives deem it close to shooting-ready.
That's key for any stage-to-screen work, which often requires a veteran screenwriter to come in and do a polish. (Among the challenges here: chiseling the piece down from its verbally intensive, and expansive, original; the play ran nearly 3 1/2 hours on the stage.)
John Wells remains attached to direct the film, though as "August" sits in development, the "ER" veteran's calendar continues to fill up. On Tuesday, NBC ordered a pilot for his prison drama "Bad Girls," adding to two shows Wells already has on the air ("Southland" and "Shameless”). (Longtime Woody Allen collaborator Jean Doumanian is a producer on "August," incidentally.)
Currently appearing on the big screen in “The Iron Lady," Streep recently completed shooting the marital dramedy “Great Hope Springs,” which will be out later this year, and does not yet have a new go film. Roberts would need to work around production for “The Normal Heart,” another prestige theater adaptation. The actress is set to star as Emma Brookner, the wheelchair user who became an AIDS activist, in Ryan Murphy’s film adaptation of the Tony-winning work.
Roberts and Streep have an astounding 20 Oscar nominations between them, though that hasn’t stopped some theatergoers from fretting about the casting.
“August” tells of a dysfunctional Oklahoma family over a few summer weeks as they come to terms with various resentments and secrets. The movie has a kind of gallows humor; Barbara, for instance, is prone to ripping off lines like “Thank God we can’t tell the future. We’d never get out of bed.” The play won a spate of awards when it first debuted, including a Pulitzer, a Tony and a Drama Desk prize. Many critics put it on their list of best plays of the 2000s.
Deanna Dunagan and Amy Morton incarnated the Violet and Barbara roles, respectively, on both Broadway and the West End; Estelle Parsons and Shannon Cochrane played the parts when the show came to Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theater.
Theater has been a primary source of prestige films this year, though with not always satisfactory results. "The Ides of March," based on Beau Willimon’s political drama, fared reasonably well with critics and audiences. Another stage-derived drama, Roman Polanski's "Carnage," was a minor disappointment among both groups, while Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" landed somewhere in-between.
[For the record, 2:10 p.m. Feb. 2: A previous version of this post misspelled the last name of playwright Beau Willimon as Willon.]
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: "August: Osage County" at the Ahmanson. Credit: Los Angeles Times