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'Gypsy' movie with Barbra Streisand moving forward

March 13, 2012 |  5:57 pm

Barbra Streisand

The on-again, off-again movie adaptation of "Gypsy," with Barbra Streisand in the lead, is officially on again. Universal announced Tuesday that the movie project is moving forward with "Downton Abbey" creator and writer Julian Fellowes coming on board to pen the screenplay.

"Gypsy" will be produced by Streisand and Joel Silver, but a director has not been announced. Fellowes, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for "Gosford Park," will write the adaptation of the classic stage musical, which features songs by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim and a book by Arthur Laurents.

Streisand, who turns 70 next month, will play Mama Rose, the overbearing stage mother grappling with raising two young daughters during the Depression. The musical is based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous vaudeville performer and striptease artist.

Last year, "Gypsy" appeared to be dead in the water at Warner Bros. after Laurents said that he didn't want the new movie version to happen and that he had withdrawn his permission for it. Laurents died in May at the age of 93.

But it wasn't the film he opposed, only certain stipulations regarding oversight by the original authors that couldn't be worked out at Warner Bros., according to his former agent, Jonathan Lomma of WME Entertainment. Lomma, who continues to represent the estate of the legendary Broadway writer and director, said Tuesday that Universal quickly stepped forward with an offer that garnered Laurents' blessing prior to his death. 

"Gypsy" debuted on Broadway in 1959, with Ethel Merman in the role of Mama Rose. Other actresses who have played the iconic part on Broadway include Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters and, most recently, Patti LuPone.

The only other time "Gypsy" has been adapted for the big screen was in 1962, in a version starring Rosalind Russell, whose singing voice was dubbed. Bette Midler played the role in a 1993 TV adaptation of the musical.

No release date has been set for the Streisand version.


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Photo: Barbara Streisand. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times