Sweet Smell of Success songwriters Marvin Hamlisch (music) and Craig Carnelia (lyrics) are the collaborators exploring a stage musical version of Bullets Over Broadway, with Woody Allen penning the libretto from the screenplay he wrote with Douglas McGrath.
Carnelia confirmed to Playbill On-Line that he and Hamlisch have written songs for the project, about an intellectual writer reluctantly bowing to commercial and producer pressure as he writes a play for Broadway. There is no timetable for the project, but Carnelia said there should be word about the show's future by spring. No director is attached.
Martin Richards and Sam Crothers, aka Producer Circle, are the producing team on Bullets, which remains in a holding pattern owing to the lawsuit forged by Allen against his longtime former film producer and friend, Jean Doumanian. Allen is suing Doumanian for underpaying him for his last eight films — "Bullets" among them. According to the New York Post, Allen reportedly filed papers in New York State Supreme Court alleging Sweetland Films' failure to pay "agreed upon shares of the gross profits" on these films, which also included "Sweet and Lowdown," Mighty Aphrodite" and the movie-musical "Everyone Says I Love You."
Doumanian's spokesperson told the Post that his client would prevail and that Allen "has been paid everything he is entitled to."
It had been thought that although Allen and Doumanian dissolved their business partnership when Allen signed with Dreamworks last year, the two were still as friendly as they were four decades ago, when the actor director-writer was starting out as a nightclub comic. Back in March, Doumanian told Newsday that Bullets would likely fly over Broadway in 2002-03. "We're just waiting on Woody's schedule," she said. "He wants to do the book."
A spokesperson at co-producer Martin Richards' office told Playbill On-Line (May 14, 2001) that the project's status "has not changed," though it's "still in the planning stages." Sources close to the production now say that if Allen and Doumanian resolve their differences, the project will, indeed, move forward.
A late-August 2000 report on Inside.com noted that Allen had considering directing the piece and that before Hamlisch came on board, Allen considered simply using popular songs of the 1920s and 30s, rather than an original score. Reached Sept. 6, 2000, Alan Eichhorn's office at PMK, which reps author Allen, would not comment on, or even confirm, the project.
Carnelia, a composer-lyricist who contributed songs to Working and wrote the score to Is There Life After High School?, said he and Hamlisch (A Chorus Line, The Goodbye Girl, They're Playing Our Song) are officially a team (Carnelia writing lyrics-only), and getting along just fine. Their Broadway bound Sweet Smell of Success opens at the Shubert Theatre in Chicago Jan. 13, and begins Broadway previews Feb. 23.
When they work, Carnelia said, Hamlisch writes music first.
"We've really hit it off as friends and collaborators," Carnelia told Playbill On-Line. "We just love working with each other. We've both been in search of something and we seem to find that answer in each other. He's been looking for a steady collaborator. I'm looking to be more successful than I ever have been by myself. I wasn't looking for a collaborator, I wasn't thinking of working with another composer. I was thinking of continuing in my very straight line of just writing what I felt I should be writing and sticking to it and ultimately breaking through. Then this opportunity came up and has presented me with a very different career than the one I've been having. It's given us both something we were lacking, and we both know it. We have a lot of fun when we work. We both love to work. We have a lot in common, also. We're both big New York Yankee fans."
As for the "Bullets" film, Dianne Wiest won an Academy Award for her portrayal of a blotto stage star who headlines a young playwright's new work. John Cusack played the dramatist who struggles with ideas of art vs. Entertainment and selling out vs. Integrity. His project ends up being bankrolled by mobsters who insist that a moll to play a pivotal role.
Allen's last Broadway play was 1981's The Floating Lightbulb, but his Central Park West was one-third of 1995's Off-Broadway hit trilogy of one-acts, Death Defying Acts. Other Allen plays include his early hits Don't Drink the Water and Play It Again, Sam and the published one-act, Death Knocks. Allen's films include "Manhattan," "Husbands and Wives," "Annie Hall," "Take the Money and Run," "Crimes and Misdemeanors," "Sweet and Lowdown" and more.
— By Kenneth Jones
and David Lefkowitz