Smuggler Films acquires live stage rights to autobiography

Robert Evans’ Hollywood exploits may soon be replayed in a Broadway theater.

Smuggler Films has acquired live stage rights to Evans’ autobiography, “The Kid Stays in the Picture,” and its forthcoming sequel, “The Fat Lady Sang,” publication of which is slated to coincide with the legit premiere.

Brit stage, film and opera director Richard Eyre is attached to the project, which is being adapted by Jon Robin Baitz. Producers are aiming to bow on Broadway during the 2010-11 season.

One of the key producing forces behind the revolutionary creative wave of 1960s and ’70s American filmmaking, Evans shepherded many now-classic features to the screen, both during his tenure as head of Paramount and as an independent producer. Among them are “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Godfather,” “Marathon Man,” “Chinatown,” “Harold and Maude,” “The Conversation” and “Serpico.”

He later made news due to drug-related scrapes during shooting on Robert Altman’s “Popeye,” as well as out-of-control budget issues and a controversy related to a murder during production on Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Cotton Club.” The breakup of Evans’ marriage to “Love Story” star Ali MacGraw also attracted tabloid attention.

“How could one resist telling the story of a man who is part Casanova/part Don Quixote/part Horatio Alger, who produced some of the best films of the 20th century — particularly if the story is written by Robbie Baitz?” commented Eyre.

Published in 1994, “The Kid Stays in the Picture” was made into a 2002 docu feature by filmmakers Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen, released by USA Films.

Baitz, the creator of ABC’s “Brothers and Sisters” and a widely produced playwright — a Broadway run of his new play “Love and Mercy” is slated for next season — said he is not literally adapting Evans’ story but interpreting it as stage drama.

“I see him as an almost fictional character,” the writer said in a statement. “A hallucinatory and vivid American survivor, voracious, kind, eccentric, charming, isolated, alternately at the center and then at the fringes, both mogul and artist, tortured and determined to matter.

“Acutely aware of how his world has changed, he has seen Hollywood transform from America’s dream city to simply another corporate colony,” Baitz added.

With projects ranging across film, theater and television, Smuggler Films was founded by Brian Carmody, John N. Hart and Patrick Milling Smith. The company also is developing a stage musical adaptation of Fox Searchlight’s indie hit “Once,” to be produced in association with Frederick Zollo and Barbara Broccoli.

“Bob Evans’ life reads like an opera,” Hart said. “Part Hollywood fantasy, part nightmare. It’s the quintessential example that fact, at times, can be stranger than fiction.”

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