‘Diary’ dear to Lions Gate

Perry to write, produce theater project for big screen

Lions Gate is set to start production on “The Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” an adaptation of the play by Tyler Perry.

Filming begins July 21 in Atlanta.

One of the most successful African-Americans in theater today, Perry will star in, write and produce the pic; Reuben Cannon also produces. Darren Grant will make his feature film helming debut.

Cast includes Cicely Tyson, Steve Harris and Kimberly Elise.

In the vein of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” pic is about a woman who is rudely surprised to find, on the eve of her 20th wedding anniversary, that her husband wants to divorce her and marry her best friend.

Perry will play the woman’s husband, as well as Madea, the fast-talkin’, pistol-packing granny who stars in many of Perry’s plays.

Although “Diary” is the first of Perry’s shows to be adapted for the bigscreen, he has a large following among African-American theater communities. Last October, “Madea’s Class Reunion” sold out seven consecutive nights at Los Angeles’ Kodak Theater.

Since 1998, Perry has written and performed in six stage shows that have generated more than $70 million in box office and merchandise sales.

Of writing for a broader film audience, he said, “I didn’t lose my core audience, or forget how they want me to tell the story, but I was also mindful to keep the story universal, so that no matter where you come from, or what your race is, you can relate to it.”

Perry, who’s repped by William Morris, is arguably the most successful of a crop of artists making waves with what is known as urban or gospel theater. Their plays combine comedy and gospel music and take on social issues affecting the lives of African-Americans.

In 2001 Perry was nominated for the prestigious Helen Hayes Award for “I Can Do Bad All by Myself.”

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