FOX Turns "Dallas: The Movie" Into Comedy
The troubled 20th Century FOX big screen adaptation of the mega-popular CBS soap "Dallas" (1978-1991) is undergoing a major overhaul following 2 years of confusing casting announcements and behind-the-scenes shenanigans and according to the latest developments may turn into one giant disaster at the box office.
Originally, Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta Jones were rumored to be in talks to play Bobby and Pamela Ewing, the characters whose Romeo-and-Juliet storyline launched "Dallas" as a CBS mini-series in April, 1978. The show quickly became a global phenomenon and Reagan-era darling that lasted 13 seasons and 357 episodes.
After the Pitt/Zeta-Jones rumors were dismissed, Australian director Robert Luketic came on board and the studio announced John Travolta was tapped to play the evil oilman J.R. Ewing while Jennifer Lopez would play his alcoholic wife Sue-Ellen. Luke Wilson and Shirley MacLaine were also attached to the project as Bobby and Ms. Ellie.
The director was however very unhappy with these casting choices (how could anyone blame him?) and he walked away from "Dallas" in early 2006. Apparently, he was not alone. Jennifer Lopez, who was very unhappy with the direction of her movie career at the time, fired her manager who got her that gig (she thought was going to flop anyway) and dropped out of the project as well.
The studio then assigned British director Gurinder Chadha ("Bend It Like Beckham") to take over the project. They also decided to limit the number of scenes filmed in Dallas and shoot most of the footage in Louisiana, because of more favorable local taxes.
The producers then began talking to Meg Ryan to play Sue Ellen while a number of other names began popping up with reference to the project. Then it all fell apart once again and both the director and the actors abandoned the project, except for John Travolta who remains on board all this time.
This morning "Variety" reports FOX has decided to turn "Dallas" into a comedy and Betty Thomas, the director behind "The Brady Bunch Movie," "I Spy" and "Dr. Dolitte," is in discussions to direct. Pam Brady, who most recently scripted "Hot Rod," is penning the script.
The budget for the comic version of "Dallas" should be lower than the $65 million originally assigned for the "serious" version. The filming is supposed to begin next January, but the only other actor assigned to the project apart from Travolta is the 19-year old "Supernatural" actress Katie Cassidy who should play Lucy Ewing.
Obviously, the studio will try to appeal to a younger audience, but that just smells like a complete disaster. As Priscilla Presley, who starred in the original series said:
"This is a whole new generation and I don't know if they will appreciate it as we did. We grew up with it, we knew the characters very well, we knew the actors very well. It is a different time period now."
As you can see in this classic scene with Larry Hagman (J.R.) and Linda Gray (Sue Ellen), the original series was brimming with tons of campy humor anyway. Now call me old-fashioned, but I seriously doubt that a modern-day brainless comedy could ever project that.