From the annals of remakes we don’t really care about: Actress Keira Knightley, who has been informally attached to the remake of 1964’s classic musical “My Fair Lady” for nearly two years, is now formally attached along with her “Atonement” director Joe Wright who will helm the project. The coveted role of Eliza Doolittle, made famous in George Cukor’s film by the great Audrey Hepburn, will go to Knightley despite rumors that Scarlett Johansson was being considered for the part by the film’s producers. Details after the jump.
Back in June of 2008 we told you that producers Sir Cameron Mackintosh and Duncan Kenworthy were in the process of remaking “My Fair Lady” and that Keira Knightley was already polishing up on her cockney accent to play the lead in the film. The plan was to make a faithful adaptation of the award-winning 1964 version – songs, score and all – and to have the formidable Emma Thompson rework the script.
Aside from the fact that a film adaptation of “My Fair Lady” is completely unnecessary, Knightley seemed like a good fit for Eliza. She’s British, don’t you know.
Knightley, an unremarkable singer by all accounts, apparently started voice lessons for “My Fair Lady” over a year ago and all mentions of the film’s progress over the past 12 months or so featured Keira’s starring turn as a foregone conclusion. Until last August. At that point the UK’s Telegraph Mandrake column quoted Mackintosh as saying that he had “two actresses as potential Elizas, one British, the other American.” He wasn’t “letting on” who the American might be but the reporter was happy to fill in the blank… Scarlett Johansson!
Flash forward to two days ago when the self-same Telegraph reporter proudly proclaimed “Keira Knightley beats Scarlett Johansson to be My Fair Lady!” What a relief, eh? Seriously, I have no doubt that Scarlett’s name was mentioned (she’s on the short list for every movie that features a woman aged 16-36) but when you already have an A-list actress who would only need ONE dialect coach to learn the role, starting some kind of puffed up cat fight over the part smacks a bit of manufactured publicity.
Then again, perhaps Knightley was waiting for her favorite director to get freed up to join the project before she would commit fully. Joe Wright, who directed Keira in both “Pride and Prejudice” and “Atonement”, has agreed to take on “My Fair Lady” in the wake of the cancellation of his “Indian Summer” feature by Universal due to “budgetary issues.”
For those of you who may not know, “My Fair Lady” the musical was originally based on George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion” which was in turn based on a play by the Greek master Ovid. Starting to see why another trip to hear “the Rain in Spain” might be a bit gratuitous?
I will say that I have every confidence that Emma Thompson will do the script justice. She accomplished one of the most striking screen re-working’s of a Jane Austen book with her “Sense and Sensibility” script, and if that other big casting rumor – that Daniel Craig may play Professor Henry Higgins – pans out then perhaps I can move this film from the “remakes we don’t care about” file to the file for “remakes we only care a tiny bit about” instead.