Cruise in tune with ‘Shaggs’ project

Thesp options Orlean's article

NEW YORK — Tom Cruise is going low-fi.

Along with his producing partner Paula Wagner, Cruise has optioned New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean’s article “Meet the Shaggs,” about the legendary 1969 outsider rock group. Wagner and Cruise will develop the project through their Paramount-based shingle, C/W Prods.

Deal marks the odd marriage of one of Hollywood’s most mainstream stars with an obscure ’60s band that is a cult fave within fringe noise and art rock scenes.

Formed in the hamlet of Freemont, N.H., the Shaggs consisted of the Wiggins sisters, three shy, awkward teenagers with unfortunate haircuts and thick New England accents encouraged by their father to write, perform and record rock music. Despite their lack of musical interest or ability, their dad forced them to record a rock album because his mother had a premonition that they should.

They went on to make “Philosophy of the World,” a record that died in total obscurity until Frank Zappa heard it and declared that the Shaggs were “better then the Beatles.” Rock historians have since rediscovered the record (available on CD from RCA Victor), declaring that its arrhythmic, out-of-tune bleating augured every dissonant music movement from Ornette Coleman to Sonic Youth. Two of the sisters performed in November at NRBQ’s 30th anniversary celebration at the Bowery Ballroom.

Two years ago, Orlean’s novel “The Orchid Thief” was optioned by Fox 2000 with Jonathan Demme set to produce.

Orlean was repped by Richard Pine. The deal was negotiated by CAA.

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