Graff Says Fosse Choreography Is Out and Steroids Are in for New "Damn Yankees" Film

By Andrew Gans
22 Mar 2010

Todd Graff
Todd Graff

Todd Graff, who will direct a new film based on the classic Broadway musical Damn Yankees, told MTV.com that the motion picture will differ significantly from the original version.

In fact, the use of steroids — an unfortunate part of the current world of sports — will be addressed in the movie musical, which will co-star Jim Carrey and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Graff told MTV.com, "If a character like Joe Hardy — who's the character in 'Damn Yankees' — sprung out of nowhere and was hitting 70 home runs in a season, who would not think immediately 'steroids'? . . . So [steroids] is not even a side character for us; it's our main character. No one is going to think, 'Oh, it's because he made a deal with the devil!' They'd think, 'He's juicing!'" Graff also said that the subject of steroids may be addressed in one of the new songs that will be penned for the film. Some of the original Richard Adler and Jerry Ross songs will remain, including "Whatever Lola Wants."

Among the other changes: While the original musical concerned the Washington Senators, the new version will likely focus on the Chicago Cubs. And, the famed Bob Fosse choreography will be replaced: "They did that in 'Chicago,' so it's been done," Graff explained. "His stuff was brilliant, his sensibility was very hard-edged and cynical, and I think what we're going for is more of a muscular, athletic, youthful, sexy movie. We're going to be less brittle, less razzle-dazzly and aim to knock your socks off with the athleticism."

"My whole pitch was that it should feel like 'Jerry Maguire' with songs," Graff said. "It should really feel like the real world of a major sports franchise and what would happen with this fantastical goofy, funny idea of a baseball fanatic who sold his soul to Jim Carrey as the devil in order to be turned into a 20-year-old Joe Mauer."



Based on the Douglass Wallop novel "The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant," Damn Yankees features music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, and a book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop.

The original Broadway production of Damn Yankees opened at the 46th Street Theatre May 5, 1955, playing 1,019 performances before closing at the Adelphi Theatre, where it later transferred, on Oct. 12, 1957. Directed by George Abbott with musical numbers staged by Bob Fosse, the show had an original cast that included Gwen Verdon, Stephen Douglass and Ray Walston. The production won 1956 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (Walston), Best Actress in a Musical (Verdon), Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Russ Brown), Best Choreography (Fosse), Conductor and Musical Director (Hal Hastings) and Stage Technician (Harry Green).

The most recent Broadway revival, which opened in March 1994 at the Marquis Theatre, co-starred Bebe Neuwirth, Victor Garber and Jarrod Emick.

Song titles include "Heart," "Joe at Bat," "Shoeless Joe From Hannibal, MO," "A Little Brains, A Little Talent," "Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)," "Who's Got the Pain?," "Those Were the Good Old Days" and "Two Lost Souls," among others.

A recent City Center Encores! Summer Stars production featured Jane Krakowski, Sean Hayes, Cheyenne Jackson and Randy Graff.

City Center described the musical this way: "It is the story of Joe Boyd, the ultimate baseball fan, who sells his soul to the Devil for the chance to help his team, the Washington Senators, win the pennant race against the Yankees. The Devil is aided by the sexy Lola, who seduces Joe, but ultimately helps him outsmart the Devil and return to his beloved wife."

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Variety reported in February 2009 that the classic Richard Adler and Jerry Ross musical was heading back to the silver screen. The industry paper stated that Craig Zadan and Neil Meron — the famed producing team behind the Oscar-winning film of Chicago, the acclaimed movie of Hairspray and the recent TV film "A Raisin in the Sun" — will produce the film for New Line Cinema.

Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel will pen the script.

The cast will be headed by film stars Jim Carrey as the Devil and Jake Gyllenhaal as Joe Boyd. The role of Lola has yet to be cast.

The film will attempt to inject a contemporary feel into the 1950s musical, according to the trade paper.