In late June 2000, a spokesman at producer Martin Richards' office confirmed what had been seen in The New York Daily News: There had been ongoing "conversations" about creating a stage musical version of Woody Allen's 1994 movie comedy, Bullets Over Broadway. The tale of theatre folk, gangsters and molls in the 1920s was to be co-produced by Richards and long-time Allen film producer and friend, Jean Doumanian.
Marvin Hamlisch was quoted in The Daily News at the time saying he's involved as composer. No other creative personnel were mentioned, although speculation was that Allen would pen the libretto based on his screenplay (with Douglas McGrath).
The whole project now seems in doubt, though, because the New York Post reported May 11 that Allen is suing Doumanian for underpaying him for his last eight films — "Bullets" among them. Allen has 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 Dan Kolores 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) that the project's status "has not changed," though it's "still in the planning stages." He could not confirm whether or not Allen was slated to pen the musical's book.
Asked about Bullets, composer Hamlisch's agent, Arnold Liebman, told Playbill On- Line (March 7), "He's working on it," but had no further details. Bullets is on Hamlisch's back burner at the moment, since he, John Guare and Craig Carnelia are readying The Sweet Smell of Success for Broadway in spring 2002.
A late-August 2000 report on Inside.com noted that Allen was also 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.
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.
"I'm very excited about the project," Hamlisch said in The Daily News in March. "Between now and August, let the lawyers worry about it. Then we'll worry about it."
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 and Take the Money and Run.
- By David Lefkowitz