‘Beauty’ duo, ABC playing with ‘Dolls’

ABC has made a deal with “American Beauty” producers Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen to mount the original musical “Livin’ Dolls” as a telepic for “Wonderful World of Disney.” The music will be written by Marc Shaiman with lyrics by Scott Wittman, the team that collaborated on the stage version of the John Waters film “Hairspray” which is headed for Broadway next year.

The book for the musical is being written by Stan Zimmerman and Jim Berg, former “Roseanne” scribes whose feature credits include the “Brady Bunch” movies.

“Dolls,” based on an idea by Shaiman and Wittman, concerns a teen wallflower who blossoms when she is magically transported to the swinging California beach house of her mother’s doll collection from the 1960s. The score is ’60s pop, and the aim is to attract big pop stars to participate.

Shooting will take place in the spring for a fall 2001 airdate. ABC movies and minis prexy Susan Lyne and senior veep Quinn Taylor will shepherd the project, along with Disney’s Joe Del Hierro.

While ABC has done remakes of classic musicals like “South Pacific” and “Annie,” “Livin’ Dolls” is only the second original mounted by the network, following the Drew Carey-starrer “Gepetto.”

It is the first television film for Shaiman, who has been nominated for five Oscars, most recently for his work on “South Park: The Movie.” Shaiman is also was known for Billy Crystal’s Oscar medley done for the Academy Awards broadcasts.

The musical is the first TV project for Jinks and Cohen, who, on their very first film collaboration, won the Oscar for “American Beauty.”

“When Disney and ABC approached us to do a musical, we didn’t want to follow Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who’ve done such a wonderful job bringing classics to the screen,” said Jinks. “We thought we’d be better off concentrating on something original.”

Jinks and Cohen, who will exec produce, are prepping two major features. Fox 2000 is casting the Peyton Reed-directed comedy “Down with Love,” and Columbia has the John August-scripted adaptation of “Big Fish” which is scheduled to be directed by Steven Spielberg. The film is a contender for the helmer’s next slot, along with “Memoirs of a Geisha,” and the Leonardo DiCaprio-starrer “Catch Me If You Can” at DreamWorks.

QUENTIN SOLVES QUANDARY: Recently, Dish described the dilemma that faced writer/director Quentin Tarantino when he discovered that his “Kill Bill” star, Uma Thurman, was pregnant. Tarantino hasn’t been behind the camera since “Jackie Brown,” and was eager to direct his first original script since “Pulp Fiction.” But the heavy action of the film made her participation impossible until her stork visit.

He could recast — and the webs and press offered plenty of alternate suggestions — but Tarantino had written the role for Thurman. Tarantino called Dish to say that he’d solved his problem by taking what he considered the only honorable course of action, even if it delays his own return by about a year.

“The column correctly called it a quandary,” said Tarantino, “but I finally had to ask myself, ‘What would Joseph Von Sternberg do?’ Why, he would wait for Marlene Dietrich, and film history would thank him! So I’m going to wait for Uma, she is my actress.” (Tarantino’s proclamation didn’t mention that Thurman was once set to play Dietrich, until director Louis Malle died.)

He couldn’t conscience bouncing the actress from a role he feels she is uniquely suited to play, and was largely responsible for hatching. “We came up with her character, the Bride, in what is a revenge movie where she tracks down the men who wronged her, and kills them one by one,” said Tarantino, who began writing just after they finished “Pulp Fiction,” and viewed the film as his homage to such genres as “the spaghetti westerns, the badass chick flicks, Charles Bronson movies.”

Tarantino has completed his “Kill Bill” script and will go into preproduction after January, when Thurman has her baby, with shooting beginning next May or June.

In the meantime, he will return to scripting “Inglorious Bastards,” which Tarantino termed “my guys-on-a-mission movie, that is a little bit ‘Where Eagles Dare’ and ‘The Dirty Dozen,’ where they’re fighting Nazis.”

Tarantino is well into “Inglorious”: He’d stopped the progress of “Kill Bill” to spend the past year and a half researching and writing the war film. Then, on a chance meeting with Thurman, he dug “Kill Bill” out of a drawer. “I fell in love with it all over again and put the war film aside. I always wanted to do two films back to back, and now I’ll be back on that track. This should work out perfectly, and I’ll be ready to do the other film right after. I’ll have a small epic and a big epic and Uma will have her baby, which is so much more important than a movie, anyhow.”

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