Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s seminal Cats may perhaps be one the strangest global phenomenons to come out of musical theater. The one-time longest running Broadway musical has throughout the decades been many things – a punchline, a box office juggernaut and a Tony Award winner. For something new, the property may now be heading to the big screen. According to Variety, Oscar winning filmmaker Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) will direct and produce a movie version for Universal Pictures and Working Title Films.
Cats, which first premiered in London in 1981, was adapted for the stage from T.S. Eliot’s poetry collection Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats. Musical theater icon Webber (The Phantom of the Opera, Evita and the currently Tony-nominated School of Rock) wrote the score with Trevor Nunn and Richard Stilgoe supplying the lyrics. The story, as it were, revolves around a group of felines called the Jellicles. The show is synonymous with its classic show-topping song “Memory,” sung by former Glamour Cat Grizabella. The tune helped Betty Buckley snap up a Tony Award in the original Broadway run of the show – the show also won six other Tony Awards back in 1983 including Best Musical and Best Original Score. Casting on Grizabella will likely be the most dissected among musical theater fans moving forward.
The Broadway production of Cats shuttered back in 2006 but a revival is coming back this summer. A film treatment of the musical has been something that’s been in the works for some time now but has never been able to get off the ground. Webber’s previous stage shows that came to the cinema include The Phantom of the Opera (directed by Joel Schumacher), Evita (directed by Alan Parker) – for which Webber won an Oscar for his original song “You Must Love Me” and Jesus Christ Superstar (directed by Norman Jewison).
For Hooper, Cats would mark his second musical – in 2012 he brought another theater blockbuster, Les Misérables, to the silver screen. That film eventually earned over $400 millions worldwide and took home three Oscars, including one for actress Anne Hathaway (who was aided with a show-topping song of her own). With Hooper attached, hopes at Universal and Working Title may loom large that Cats can have a similar fate- fun stat: each of Hooper’s last three films have yield acting Oscar wins (Colin Firth for The King’s Speech, Hathaway for Les Misérables and Alicia Vikander this past year for The Danish Girl).
Back in February, The Sun reported that Hooper was in negotiations to bring the musical to big screen and was potentially courting model-turned-actress Suki Waterhouse (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) for a role. Waterhouse’s involvement isn’t yet confirmed but Hooper’s participation appears in motion. As of yet, no screenwriter or casting announcements have been announced.
We shall stay tuned to the latest.