EXCLUSIVE: Kitt and Yorkey Discuss Downey, Jr. Project, Next to Normal Film and Broadway Plans

News   EXCLUSIVE: Kitt and Yorkey Discuss Downey, Jr. Project, Next to Normal Film and Broadway Plans
Tony Award and Pulitzer-Prize winning writers Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, whose groundbreaking musical Next to Normal will end its two-year Broadway run in January 2011, are looking ahead to a new film musical for Robert Downey, Jr. and an upcoming Broadway project.

Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey
Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey

Yorkey, Kitt and Joy Gorman of Anonymous Content (Yorkey's manager and longtime film producing partner) spoke with Playbill.com about the news of a new feature film musical they are conceiving as a vehicle for Academy Award nominee Downey, Jr.

"Since the guys have so many fans in the film industry who had seen Next to Normal, we've been trying to crack a big fun idea for a movie musical that was commercial and would reach a wide audience. When the guys brought me this idea it felt like it couldn't be more perfect," Gorman explained. For the record, Gorman, Kitt and Yorkey have been working together since their days at Columbia University.

"Tom had this idea about two Broadway songwriters whose careers crash and burn and they have to go back and be counselors at the camp where they first met," Yorkey said of the project that was first born in August. "These two guys have been aspiring Broadway songwriters for so long, and they get their big break. The big break goes south as it often does, and it's very humbling for them.

"But it's an opportunity for them to rediscover why they first fell in love with musicals," he continued. "That energy, love and devotion you first have for musicals when you're a kid that sometimes can be harder to find when you actually start doing it as a profession. That's the heart of the movie."

The writers approached Downey, Jr. and Sarah Schecter at Warner Brothers with an outline of the plot and a handful of song snippets that showcased a verse and chorus of musical moments for the film. It was more than enough to interest the "Iron Man" and "Sherlock Holmes" star, and Warner Bros bought the pitch. "He's a brilliant actor and a huge star. But, he also went to Stage Door Manor [the infamous New York state summer theatre camp]. He plays piano and sings. He knows that world. We didn't let ourselves dream that he'd be interested and the fact that he was, was just so thrilling," Yorkey said.

Many fans may not know that Downey, Jr. also released a 2004 solo album, "The Futurist," on which he sang and played piano. "Knowing his musicality and that he's a pianist who sings — the excitement of having this virtuoso talent as an actor and a musician was very exciting to us," Kitt added.

The project is still in its early stages, and it has yet to be determined whether Downey, Jr. will play the composer or librettist. Kitt, Yorkey and Gorman are aiming to take the project to the next level once Downey, Jr. returns from filming "Sherlock Holmes II." Once a script is complete the team will then begin the search for a director to shepherd the project.

"Both parts are kind of ideal for him," Yorkey explained. "There's the force-of-nature composer who's brilliant with the music but also loves the ladies, and then there's the sort of intense and verbal neurotic writer who handles the words. [Downey, Jr.] has done both of those kind of parts brilliantly, so as we develop it he'll get a feel for which one he wants to play."

The collaborators also spoke about speculation of a film adaptation of Next to Normal. All three stated that any news was premature. "It's not even at square one at this point," according to Yorkey. "There have been a number of directors who we love who have expressed interest in the property. Making the movie has been a dream of ours."

A producing team, including Gorman, Steve Golin, David Stone and Marc Platt, are in place to bring the project to the big screen. "Tom and I are really trusting them to guide us through the process and talk to all of the people who are interested."

The Los Angeles bow of Next to Normal has been ideal in securing Hollywood heavyweights to check out the award-winning work. According to Gorman: "We're at the point where some of our first-choice directors we're interested in are coming to see the show and get to know the material. We'll go from there."

As for their next Broadway project, Kitt and Yorkey reveal that they are again working with Next to Normal, Spelling Bee and Wicked producer David Stone.

Currently under the working title If, the new musical project will focus on a woman facing turning points and changes in her life. "It's in the early stages, but it's a priority of ours. It's hopefully the next thing we'll be doing on Broadway," Yorkey said. The team hopes that Next to Normal director Michael Grief will direct.

For now, Kitt and Yorkey fans have until Jan. 16, 2011, to catch the Broadway production of Next to Normal. The 36-week, multi-city North American tour of the musical continues through Jan. 2, 2011, in Los Angeles, with stops set for Denver, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia and Toronto. Visit NexttoNormal.

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