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Yes, Master? New draft, hope for an 'I Dream of Jeannie' movie

April 20, 2010 |  7:48 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Among all the remakes of classic TV shows out there, few have seen more attempts to reach the big screen than "I Dream of Jeannie."

A number of years ago -- almost all the way back, it seems, to the birth of Jeannie herself -- there was a script by "National Treasure" writers Cormac and Marianne Wibberley, who sought to offer a feature take on the Barbara Eden-Larry Hagman series. That didn't work out, so Sony brought on "Mulan" writer Rita Hsiao. That didn't make the grade either. "Bend It Like Beckham" director Gurinder Chadha was signed on to direct at one point, then fell off. Linsday Lohan was on board to star as Jeannie. That one really didn't work out. At some point the Nicole Kidman-Will Ferrell "Bewitched" came out and flopped. That didn't help.

It was all enough to make one wish they could just clap their hands together and will a version into existence.

Now producers and Sony have a better idea. According to sources' info, as well as a listing on a nice little development board called It's On the Grid, they've hired Sheila Callaghan, a writer on Showtime's "The United States of Tara," to offer her take. You have to give them credit; they're going out of the bottle -- er, box -- with Callaghan. The writer has written on a number of "Tara" episodes, but she's best known as a downtown New York playwright, writing an acclaimed retelling of James Joyce's "Ulysses" and a Reagan-era romantic drama set in Greece titled "Lascivious Something," among some other well-regarded work.

One of the things that's flummoxed "Jeannie" writers is how to update the 1960s sitcom, which incorporated more than a few pre-feminist ideas, for anything resembling the modern age. It's hard to imagine that too many stories about an astronaut who keeps a subservient woman in a bottle would play on a contemporary screen, at least those outside a certain kind of movie theater.

But given Callaghan's previous work, which grapples with a number of  feminist themes, she just may find a way to crack that problem. (The script won't, pray to the gods, or whomever Jeannie worshiped, go with the meta approach that jinxed "Bewitched," the 2005 reboot of Jeannie's '60s-sitcom counterpart.)

Given the project's history of false starts, it's hard to be supremely confident this one will take. But we live in different times than when "Jeannie" development began. As producers on a host of remakes can tell you, once a well-known brand gets some momentum these days, it's hard to put it back in the bottle.

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Barbara Eden in "I Dream of Jeannie." Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

Comments () | Archives (8)

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Here I am, trying to write an original screenplay, and the studio wonks muck around w/ a remake of a not-so-good-actually 60s sitcom. Hmm? I know, I'll write a script about a failed scriptwriter who ditches the great ideas and instead pitches shovelfuls of crap----and it sells! That's been done, right?

Um, unless you can magically turn barbara eden into a twenty year old again it will flop. every single modern actress is lame compare to the actresses of her time. just sayin'

Why not do it as a period piece picking up with the series left off in 1970?

why don't they do a 3-D animated version - that would be really fun and you can solve some of the issues that have held the project back?

"Bewitched" proved how difficult it is to translate a concept-driven sitcom from the 60's to a modern, big budget movie. Nora Ephron just blew it trying to put a "twist" on that basic idea by trying to superimpose the idea of the witch starring as a sitcom about a witch married to a mortal. These shows were broad comedy and any adaptation needs to recognize that and run with it. Yes, Barbra Eden was so indelibly cast as Jeannie that any adaptation will suffer by comparison to those of us who fondly remember the series. But so many people are around today who never watched the original that a new version, if done right, could be successful. Even though I cringed a couple of years ago upon reading that Will Smith was trying to develop the show as a movie for himself and his wife, they could have pulled it off with a good script (she's too old now, though).

hey this is Walter from Mt Clemens michigan,im a fan of I Dream of Jeannie when are they going to do a movie version of that.they should have an african american version of I Dream of Jeannie in the black community,im a writer and actor im working on a project called Walter Dream of Jenna a black version of i Dream of Jeannie

a black female genie named Jenna and her gifted genuis master boyfriend Walter Reed,i already got it published into a book

they can get Beyonce,Alicia Keys and other black actresses to play Jeannie and black actors included the Waynas Shwan or Damon 's son Damon Jr as Major Nelson


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