Academy Award Winner Thompson to Pen Screenplay for "My Fair Lady" Remake

By Andrew Gans
24 Jul 2008

Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson

Two-time Academy Award winner Emma Thompson has signed on to help create the remake of the classic film "My Fair Lady," which is based on the Alan Jay Lerner-Frederick Loewe musical of the same name.

The director of publicity for Columbia Pictures confirmed to Playbill.com that writer-actress Thompson will pen the screenplay for the upcoming film. Thompson won her Academy Awards for "Howards End" (Best Actress in a Leading Role) and "Sense and Sensibility" (Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium). She was also Oscar-nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for both "The Remains of the Day" (1993) and "Sense and Sensibility" (1995).

Thompson has also written the screenplays for "Nanny McPhee" and the television version of Wit. Her numerous acting credits also include "Impromptu," "Dead Again," "Much Ado About Nothing," "The Remains of the Day," "In the Name of the Father," "Primary Colors," "Judas Kiss," "Love Actually," "Wit," "Angels in America," "Nanny McPhee," "Stranger Than Fiction," "Harry Potter" and the current "Brideshead Revisited."

Columbia Pictures announced June 5 that it will join forces with CBS Films to create a new film version of the classic musical My Fair Lady that will be produced by Duncan Kenworthy and Cameron Mackintosh.

The film will utilize the legendary Lerner and Loewe score but will adapt Lerner's original book by drawing additional material from Pygmalion, upon which the musical is based. Producers hope to "dramatize as believably as possible for present-day audiences the emotional highs and lows of Eliza Doolittle as she undergoes the ultimate makeover, transforming under the tutelage of Professor Henry Higgins from a Cockney flower girl to a lady," according to press notes.



Producers plan to film on location in the original London settings of Covent Garden, Drury Lane, Tottenham Court Road, Wimpole Street and Ascot racecourse.

Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad said in a statement, "My Fair Lady is not just the quintessential stage musical and classic film, but a fantastic story. We're thrilled to have the opportunity to bring it to the screen once again. There is no one alive who knows this material better than Cameron Mackintosh; he has staged two revivals of My Fair Lady, the first in 1979 directed by Alan Jay Lerner himself, and the second the award-winning adaptation that's now touring the United States. He and Duncan Kenworthy have already set out on the long journey of bringing a new version to thescreen and we feel very lucky to be a part of it. This update will preserve the magic of the musical while fleshing out the characters and bringing 1912 London to life in an authentic and exciting way for contemporary audiences."

Producer Mackintosh added, "My Fair Lady's extraordinary tale of a man turning a flower girl into a lady, and then falling for her, combines one of the most powerful narratives in world literature with some of the wittiest and most winning songs ever written for the stage. People everywhere will fall in love again with Lerner and Loewe's miraculous songs set in a big, gorgeous film with contemporary stars, a more realistically achieved vision of Edwardian London, and a touch more Pygmalion at the heart of this powerfully emotional story of a girl's transformation. The classic story of a flower girl transformed into an instant sensation couldn’t be more timely in a contemporary world obsessed with overnight celebrity."

And, producer Kenworthy said, "When George Cukor shot his wonderful film entirely on sets inside Warner's Burbank soundstages, Lerner and Loewe's smash hit musical had been running on Broadway for seven years, and the film was appropriately reverential and inevitably theatrical. With forty years of hindsight, we're confident that by setting these wonderful characters and brilliant songs in a more realistic context, and by exploring Eliza's emotional journey more fully, we will honor both Shaw and Lerner at the same time as engaging and entertaining contemporary audiences the world over. The casting of Eliza is crucial, and we are currently in discussion with a major international star to play the role."

Variety reports that film actress Keira Knightley is currently in talks to star as Eliza. Knightley was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in "Pride & Prejudice."

My Fair Lady is based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion and features a book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. The original Broadway production opened on March 15, 1956, ran for over six years and won nine Tony Awards, including one for Best Musical. The score contains such Broadway classics as "I Could Have Danced All Night," "On the Street Where You Live," "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" and "Get Me to the Church on Time."

The musical was adapted for the screen in 1963, directed by George Cukor, and cast Audrey Hepburn as Eliza and Rex Harrison as Higgins. The film won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor.