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Miramax tunes ‘Guys & Dolls’

Studio, Zadan, Meron secure necessary rights for redo

After resuscitating the screen musical with “Chicago,” Harvey Weinstein is ready for an encore. Miramax Films is negotiating a “Guys and Dolls” rights package for a remake that will be produced by Storyline Entertainment partners Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the duo that served as “Chicago” exec producers.

The tap dance to secure multiple rights components for the stage musical-turned-movie is nearly complete.

Zadan and Meron held pieces of the necessary rights, and Miramax secured the final component, the original short story on which the tuner was based, “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown,” from newspaperman Damon Runyon’s estate. The producers had the blessing of composer Frank Loesser’s widow, Jo Sullivan Loesser, and Samuel Goldwyn Jr., who held rights because his father made the original film. In all likelihood, the Goldwyn name will be on the new pic as Goldwyn will be involved in a producing capacity.

Zadan and Miramax confirmed that they were hoping to make a deal that would turn “Guys and Dolls” into their next musical collaboration, even as they look at other projects.

Zadan said they aim to keep intact much of the rather large support team that made the first film. “The great thing about a musical like ‘Chicago’ is the amount of people you get to work on it, it’s like three movies rolled into one. You’re hiring a dance troupe, choreographer, a music department, and the elements to make a dramatic film as well.”

Agencies have begun to buzz about casting possibilities. “A lot of actors are coming forward who we never knew were capable of singing and dancing,” Zadan said. “After ‘Chicago’ and ‘Moulin Rouge,’ they’re going to their agents, saying, ‘Hey, put me in a musical.’ … The musical is no longer defined as a niche area.”

All of this is a result of the accolades and commerce earned by “Chicago,” which received 13 Oscar nominations and is about to cross the $100 million mark in the U.S. The soundtrack just went platinum.

Miramax and the producers feel that “Guys and Dolls” has similar potential, even though it’s a comedy. It shares a gritty period setting, colorful characters and the benefit of some popular stage tunes.

“Guys and Dolls” centers around Nathan Detroit, the organizer of the oldest established floating crap game in New York. He challenges fellow gambler Sky Masterson to a bet that he can’t make the next girl he sees fall in love with him.

The music and lyrics were penned by Loesser, and the 1955 film starred Frank Sinatra as Detroit, Marlon Brando as Masterson and Jean Simmons as love interest Sarah Brown. Classic tunes include “Luck Be a Lady” and “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.”

Musical background

Zadan and Meron previously made the TV musicals “Gypsy”; “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella”; “The Music Man”; and “Annie,” which marked the directorial debut of Oscar-nominated “Chicago” helmer Rob Marshall.

Weinstein will assign the film to his inhouse “Chicago” team of co-prexy of production Meryl Poster, and Julie Goldstein and Jennifer Berman.

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