Already filmed once for TV and once for the silver screen, Gypsy started life as a Broadway musical by Jules Styne, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents. The basis for the musical’s storyline was a Harper’s profile of the burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee, and its stand-out character turned out to be Rose, her mother.
Rose is considered by many to be the role in musical theatre, the song-and-dance equivalent of King Lear. I’ll agree at least that she’s a brilliantly complex and compelling figure. And she gets some great tunes.
Speaking to the New York Post, Arthur Laurents has revealed that Barbra Streisand is planning to star as Rose in a new film of Gypsy that she will produce and direct. This was the role played by Bette Midler in the mid-90s TV production and Rosalind Russell in Mervy LeRoy’s movie. Perhaps the definitive stage rose was Ethel Merman, but I (of course) only know her performance from “original cast recordings”.
Barbra and I have been getting along very well now for some time*. We’ve talked about it a lot, and she knows what she’s doing. She has my approval.
He also allayed any fears that Streisand might soft-soap Rose a little:
Barbra and I have had long talks on this very subject. She had a mother who she always thought was Mama Rose. I don’t want to get into the details, but the point is she knows. She’s got it in her. She’s going to be much more than people expect.
To be honest, it sounds like perfect casting to me. Well, maybe Midler did too. But I’m optimistic.
Laurent didn’t reveal who would be writing the adaptation, but did promise to keep a watchful eye.
No! [It won’t be me] Hollywood is Hollywood, and I’ve already been there. But I’ll be around.
Streisand is pretty much the perfect choice for the role, and I’m sure she’s committed enough to be the right director too. Can’t wait.
UPDATE: And now Laurents has talked to another New York paper, The Times. The reporter also spoke to Stephen Sondheim.
Contrary to a report in The New York Post on Wednesday, Mr. Laurents said that Ms. Streisand would not direct the film; she once wanted to, he said, “but playing Rose is enough to make her happy.” Ms. Streisand, who won an Academy Award for best actress in 1968 for the film musical Funny Girl, has been interested in doing Gypsy for many years, Mr. Laurents said, “but now things are serious and a movie is truly in the works.” He said that he had suggested Tom Hanks to play the role of Herbie, Rose’s love interest and the talent manager of her two daughters, Baby June and Louise. “Barbra loved the idea,” Mr. Laurents said.
*Decades, actually. Laurent directed Streisand in her first ever professional stage show.