NEW YORK — Martin Scorsese is eyeing the chance to direct Liv Tyler in a biopic of Bettie Page, the country’s first kinky pinup girl. The director and star have been enmeshed in talks for several months trying to put together a film, and it appears they will shop it to studios in the near future with Page’s life rights part of the package.
Considered royalty among cheesecake, Page became an underground cult figure and precursor to such vamping femmes as Madonna because of her willingness to pose nude and in kinky pictorials that included bondage, whips and leather. For Tyler, this would be a marked departure from virginal good-girl roles she’s played in films ranging from “That Thing You Do” to “Stealing Beauty” and “Armageddon.” But the actress is a dead ringer for the pinup princess with the girl-next-door looks.
“Bettie was the first progenitor of the pre-’60s sexual revolution, and she brought fetishism, bondage and forbidden sexuality to Middle America in the days of Ozzie and Harriet,” said Mark Mori, who controls the life rights of Page for a docu he’s making and who sparked Tyler to the idea of doing a feature.
Mori, twice Oscar-nominated for his docus, will produce with Barbara De Fina, who is Scorsese’s producing partner. Page’s brother Jack will be involved in some capacity. Though they’re not producing, Artists Management Group execs Rick Yorn and Catherine Schulman have been pivotal in the effort to mount the film.
While Page is best remembered for her sexy poses, she bore the burden of being a cheesecake pioneer, including being grilled by a Senate committee investigating juvenile delinquency, essentially a witch-hunt orchestrated by a senator from her home state of Tennessee bent on exploiting her as a steppingstone to the White House. Page retired shortly after the photographer who discovered her was ruined as a result of the probe. She has shunned most public appearances since the late ’50s.
The principals are talking to several high-profile scripters before bringing it to a studio; there was some talk of Ron Bass handling scripting duties, but it’s unclear whether that will happen. After that, the film will be shopped to studios.
There’s no hurry; Scorsese has several projects waiting and is deciding between “Gangs of New York” with Leonardo DiCaprio and the Dean Martin biopic at Warner Bros. with Tom Hanks. That choice is a tug-of-war: AMG hopes “Gangs” will be the upstart management-production company’s first big film package, with one of its high-profile clients spearheading it. But Scorsese has a contractual obligation to make his next film at WB, and after letting the director skip out to do “Kundun” and “Bringing out the Dead,” WB could press him to do “Dino.”
Mori is repped by Dave Phillips of Innovative Artists and attorney Robert Darwell, Tyler’s repped by CAA, and AMG represents Scorsese.