‘Being’ goes to Broadway

Producers seek writer, director to adapt material

David Permut has partnered with the estate of author Jerzy Kosinski to adapt his novel “Being There” for Broadway.

Peter Sellers starred in Kosinski’s 1979 feature adaptation for director Hal Ashby. Sellers played Chance, a slow-witted and illiterate groundskeeper who is misinterpreted by the world as Chauncey Gardiner, media hero and potential world leader. United Artists released the Lorimar production.

The film co-starred Shirley MacLaine and Melvyn Douglas. Sellers received an actor Oscar nomination and Douglas won as supporting actor.

Kosinski’s widow, Kiki Kosinski, will produce the play with J. Mark Travis, with Permut Presentations VP Steve Longi overseeing development. The book was published in 1971.

Kosinski told Daily Variety she has been approached many times about stage and remake rights for “Being There.”

“It seems like (Permut and Travis) will do their best to get the right people behind it,” she says. “It’s about anyone who’s in the public eye, and it doesn’t matter if they’re Republican or Democrat.”

This won’t be the first time “Being There” reached the stage; three years ago, Kosinski gave permission to a small theater company in her husband’s native Poland. However, she remains firm against revisiting the film.

“No way could that film be remade,” she said.

Permut and Travis began their careers under showman Bill Sargent, bringing live stage performances to the screen in James Whitmore’s one-man show “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry” in 1975 and “Richard Pryor: Live in Concert” in 1979.

“We will now reinvent a screen gem for the Broadway stage,” Permut said, “and the subject matter couldn’t be timelier.”

The producers are currently seeking a writer and/or director to adapt the material.

Permut’s film slate includes “Brother Sam” at Universal, based on the life of comedian Sam Kinison, with Tom Shadyac attached to direct; “White Out” at Warner Bros. Pictures, with Antoine Fuqua attached to direct; and several projects at Paramount, including comedy spoof “Love Boat.”

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