A puzzlement? No, a high-level negotiation. According to a story in the New York Daily News (Oct. 1), the producers of Broadway's The King And I have been talking to action film star Arnold Schwarzenegger about inheriting the role of the King of Siam once current monarch Kevin Gray leaves.
The News story cited unnamed "sources" close to the production. A similar story appeared in the New York Post.
The 50-year-old Schwarzenegger would be making his legit stage debut and likely command more than $50,000 a week plus percentages -- the kind of sum needed to lure movie stars to the boards.
Dodger Endemol chief Michael David told the Daily News' Michael Riedel he thought the idea was wonderful, but Schwarzenegger "will not be the new King in The King And I." Spokesperson Susanne Tighe reiterated that quote to Playbill On-Line but could not comment further on the Schwarzenegger talks. A spokesperson for Schwarzenegger told the Daily News that the negotiations were "news to me."
Faith Prince is the current Mrs. Anna in the $5.5 million musical, which won a 1996 Tony Award for Best Revival. Donna Murphy (a Tony winner) and Lou Diamond Phillips were the original cast members. Spokesperson Tighe expects both Gray and Prince to stay with the show for some time. Schwarzenegger's film roles include The Terminator, Pumping Iron and Twins.
If Schwarzenegger had taken over the role, there might have been some unintentional laughter in some of the most serious moments. King Mongkut is very sensitive about been called a "barbarian"; Schwarzenegger starred in the film Conan the Barbarian.
--By David Lefkowitz