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Eye tunes up for ‘Scrooge’

Award-winning Bricusse penned script, songs for prod'n

CBS has paid a visit to the Ghost of Christmas Specials Future and greenlit a three-hour musical adaptation of the holiday staple “Scrooge.”

Academy- and Grammy-winning composer and screenwriter Leslie Bricusse, who was behind the 1970 feature starring Albert Finney, has written a new script and seven original songs for the Eye project. “Scrooge” is the first announcement out of the Hatchery, the new venture launched by Margaret Loesch and Bruce Stein last fall (Daily Variety, Nov. 11).

Loesch, Stein and Bricusse are on board to exec produce, along with Dan Angel and Billy Brown, who won last year’s Emmy for their TNT telepic “Door to Door.”

According to Loesch, the Hatchery has budgeted the new “Scrooge” at $12 million; shooting is expected to begin this June in Ireland for a holiday 2004 airdate. Producers plan to begin casting shortly.

“This is a story that can constantly be retold, constantly be republished,” said Bricusse, who earned two Oscar nominations (best original song and best original score) for the Finney version of “Scrooge.” ” ‘Scrooge’ is such a phenomenal character. It’s a story that people never tire of. It’s a part of Christmas. Even the Muppets did a version.”

Stage version touring

Bricusse has already adapted the movie, but for the stage. The most recent adaptation of Bricusse’s legit “Scrooge,” in which Tommy Steele played the title character, is touring the U.K.

The new adaptation actually came about thanks to Angel, who began talking to Bricusse two years ago about updating “Scrooge,” which was already an update of Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol.”

“For me, it started when I was 11, it was the movie that made me want to be in the movie business,” Angel said. “It’s a great retelling of the story and makes you feel good at Christmas time.”

Bricusse said he believed his third crack at the material — the first musical version of “A Christmas Carol” produced for television –surpasses both the feature and stage versions.

“Every time you revisit a project years later, you’re able to see things you didn’t see the first time around,” Bricasse said. “I went back to Dickens, the source material, and found things that I didn’t use the first time. And I replaced some songs with new ones, so hopefully there’s a better mix than there ever has been.”

Holiday hits

Eye has had success in recent years with several holiday-themed telepics. The network actually held the remake option to “Scrooge,” having inherited the rights from Cinema Center Films, which produced the 1970 film. Bricasse retained rights to the music publishing.

Deal with CBS is a traditional license fee arrangement, meaning the Hatchery will be responsible for a large deficit on the project (which it plans to cover via international and home video distribution).

“We’re thrilled this is our first big announcement and delighted in landing the caliber of talent we’ve got in Leslie,” Loesch said. “This is an example of the type of projects we’re trying to bring to the marketplace.”

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