As you know, I don’t really care for musicals. There’s a seediness inherent in most musicals that I feel the singing and dancing completely erases (anyone who thinks The Sound of Music has a happy ending is nuts). But there are a few exceptions. I like Beauty and the Beast—it’s about bestiality and it’s a hugely successful Disney musical! This will never not be funny—and I’m partial to Moulin Rouge because Satine was dying of consumption the whole time. But the only stage musical I really like is Guys and Dolls, and that’s because of the movie version starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, and Frank Sinatra.
The movie version of Guys and Dolls came out in 1955. That was Peak Brando. He was a terrible singer but the way he wore those fedoras and strode around the soundstage! Guys and Dolls was the first time I saw him, and I immediately went to my local video rental and picked up every movie of his I could find. It was half sexual awakening and half incredulity at his screen presence. There are so, so few actors of any generation who had It like Brando had It.
On the Waterfront will probably never be remade, along with Rebel Without a Cause (I’ve seen the latter brought up in a pitch meeting and I think that guy got fired for it), but Guys and Dolls, despite the Brando affiliation, is not inviolable. It’s been ripe for a remake for a long time, but the rights are controlled by Frank Loesser’s widow, Jo Loesser. For years she wouldn’t license it to anyone, not even Harvey Weinstein. (Can you imagine an octogenarian insider from the golden age of Hollywood shutting down Harvey Weinstein? This is a movie I want to see.) But she signed a deal with Fox in 2013, and now Fox is ready to move forward with a new adaptation.
British director Michael Grandage is on board to direct—he previously directed a stage version in the West End with Ewan McGregor as Sky Masterson. Uh, INTO IT. But oh, this is going to be CRAZY competitive casting. Every actor who can even remotely sing, and probably a bunch who can’t, will be sending emails and making calls about being seen for Guys and Dolls. Everyone wants to measure their dick against Brando. And since he couldn’t sing, Sky Masterson might be the one role where a contemporary actor can outshine a golden age titan. So who will it be? Who are you fantasy casting in a twenty-first century Guys and Dolls?