Harvey popping ‘Pippin’

M'max blends Tony-winning project into screen tuner mix

NEW YORK — Keeping the musical momentum going in the wake of “Chicago” and recent development deals for “Damn Yankees” and “Guys and Dolls,” Miramax has cued up yet another tuner, acquiring rights to make a feature of 1972 Broadway hit “Pippin.”

While a producer has not yet been attached, there’s a great deal of heat around the project: It’s being overseen directly by co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, with co-president of production Meryl Poster and veep of production and development Jennifer Berman.

“This is a passion project for me, just like ‘Chicago,’ ” Weinstein said. “I saw this approximately 30 years ago with the original cast and have always wanted to make it into a movie. Now, with ‘Damn Yankees’ and ‘Pippin,’ the ghost of Arthur Freed is alive at Miramax.”

Set in the Holy Roman Empire, the musical follows the quest of the title character, son of 9th century ruler Charlemagne, to find a purpose in life. Pippin tries religion, painting, pastoral pursuits, politics, war and sex before ultimately finding a meaningful existence through true love.

Directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Roger Hirson, the original production received 11 Tony noms, winning five, including actor in a musical for Ben Vereen. It ran for 1,944 performances.

Tim Schmidt, VP of business and legal affairs, and Charles Layton, exec vice prexy, office of the co-chairman, negotiated the deal on behalf of Miramax. Law firm Schreck, Rose & Dapello negotiated for Schwarz, and Lazarus & Harris for Hirson.

Composer Schwartz, whose credits include “Godspell” as well as songs for Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Pocahontas” and DreamWorks’ “The Prince of Egypt,” returns to Broadway this fall with new musical “Wicked,” currently doing good biz in San Francisco.

Big shoulders

In addition to winning six Oscars including best picture with “Chicago,” Miramax has earned $303 million in worldwide grosses on the film, which has revitalized the musical genre and kick-started the wave of projects.

The Rob Marshall-helmed tuner has become Miramax’s all-time top-grossing film, passing “Shakespeare in Love’s” $282 million.

In February, Miramax negotiated a remake rights package on “Guys and Dolls” for Storyline Entertainment partners Craig Zadon and Neil Meron, who exec produced “Chicago.” Earlier this week, news surfaced that the studio had acquired rights for the same producing team to do baseball tuner “Damn Yankees,” which is expected to move ahead first.

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