Projects are being developed by Artificial Intelligence Entertainment and Social Capital Films. The banners have acquired remake rights from Lewis to the titles in Lewis’ Paramount library, including “The Errand Boy,” “The Patsy” and “Who’s Minding the Store.”
Christopher Tuffin, John Baca and George Paige will serve as producers on the films and are aiming to develop each as a franchise for a major comedy star. Projects have not yet been set up at a studio, and the producers have been starting to set meetings with actors, writers and directors.
Tuffin, who made half a dozen trips to Las Vegas to persuade Lewis to agree to the deal, told Daily Variety, “What we’re aiming to do is combine the spirit of the originals with a modern sensibility.”
“Our goal is to reboot each picture as a stand-alone comedy franchise, drawing heavily from Lewis’ comedic genius, as well as his heart-warming storytelling,” said Baca of Artificial Intelligence.
“The Bellboy” is a slapstick take on a dysfunctional bellboy who runs amok in a five-star hotel. When Paramount decided to delay the release of “Cinderfella” for the holiday season and insisted that Lewis produce a film for the summer of 1960, Lewis came up with the idea for “The Bellboy,” shooting on a tight schedule by day and performing at the hotel in the evenings at the Fountainbleau in Miami.
Tuffin noted that Lewis is credited with developing the technique of video assist through his use of video cameras and closed circuit monitors to review his performance instantly on “The Bellboy.”
“Cinderfella” is a comedy version of the Cinderella story, with several of the roles reversed, including Ed Wynn as the fairy godfather and Anna Maria Alberghetti as the princess.
“Family Jewels,” released in 1965, centers on a dim-witted limo driver charged with helping a young orphaned heiress figure out which of her eccentric uncles should be her new father. Lewis directed, co-wrote the script and played all six uncles and the driver.
Par ended its association with Lewis in the 1970s, and subsequently the rights to these films were given back to Lewis by then-Paramount CEO Barney Balaban as a way of thanking Lewis. Those titles included “The Nutty Professor,” which Universal remade successfully in 1996 with Eddie Murphy, followed four years later with the sequel “Nutty Professor II: The Klumps.”
Santa Monica-based Social Capital has been a film financier, including on the recently wrapped Halle Berry thriller “Dark Tide.”
Lewis earlier announced that he planned to star in indie drama “Max Rose” for Lightstream Pictures, portraying a widower who revisits key moments in his life to unlock the mysteries of his marriage and family. Pic has not yet begun production.