EXCLUSIVE: Spectrum Originals is developing Tinseltown, a period drama series based on William J Mann's 2014 bestselling book Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, And Madness At The Dawn of Hollywood. The project hails from Mann, The Son executive producer Kevin Murphy, Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment, Tracy Katsky’s KatCo and Paramount Television Studios.
Co-written by Murphy and Mann, Tinseltown is set against the seamy, glamorous backdrop of silent film era. It explores the lives of four pioneer women filmmakers whose lives and livelihoods were threatened by a scandalous murder and the brutal patriarchy of Hollywood's nascent studio system.
What the description refers to is the famously unsolved murder of William Desmond Taylor, the popular president of the Motion Picture Directors Association.
“The show centers on four accomplished women filmmakers who get dragged into the grotesque media circus surrounding a murder,” Murphy said. “Their careers are upended and they find themselves pushed out of the burgeoning Hollywood studio system, a system Paramount founder Adolph Zukor has been building by strong-arming independent producers and exhibitors ravaged by the Spanish Flu shutdown.”
If the project goes to series, it will launch on the heels of a global pandemic, the current coronavirus crisis. That would mirror the setting of Tinseltown, which takes place in the early 1920s, immediately after the Spanish Flu pandemic.
There are also other aspects that make Tinseltown timely. Some refer to the events in the book - and its adaptation - as the origin story of the #MeToo movement.
“I believe this is a story about women in Hollywood and the resiliency of women in Hollywood,” Mann said. “We wonder how we got to where we are today, well, this is the origin story of so much.”
Kapital and KatCo acquired the rights to Mann’s book in 2014 in a competitive situation. Kaplan and Murphy had been talking about doing a project together for 7-8 years but Murphy never sparked to an idea until Kaplan sent him a copy of Mann’s Tinseltown. Murphy was coming off AMC’s The Son, starring Pierce Brosnan, which also included historical elements, and immediately jumped on it.
Murphy and Mann executive produce alongside Kapital’s Kaplan and Dana Honor and KatCo’s Katsky.
Mann, repped by APA, is a well known Hollywood chronicler who has previously written Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn; How to Be A Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor In Hollywood; Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand; and Wisecracker: The Life And Times Of William Haines.
Desperate Housewives and Caprica alum Murphy created/executive produced the series Valentine and Hellcats...
EXCLUSIVE: Anthony McCarten is in talks to write the script for the Bee Gees movie that Paramount Pictures is making with producer-financier Sister, Bohemian Rhapsody producer Graham King's GK, and Amblin. The Oscar-nominated McCarten most recently scripted the upcoming Netflix film The Two Popes, the Fernando Meirelles-directed drama that stars Anthony Hopkins as Catholic Church Pope Benedict and Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis. That film will be released November 27.
Maurice, left, Barry and Robin Gibb Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock
McCarten has the distinction of having written three recent biopics that resulted in Best Actor trophies for the stars of those films. Eddie Redmayne won for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, Gary Oldman won for Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour and most recently Rami Malek won for Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, which was produced by King. I can imagine a spray-tanned Hugh Jackman making a good match for the rugged-looking falsetto-vocalizing Barry Gibb, who became group leader during the Bee Gees' disco era rebirth, and McCarten's streak certainly won't hurt in securing actors to play Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb. There are no actor attachments at this point.
Deadline revealed last week that the rights deal on the long gestating Bee Gees project had been made with Barry Gibb and the estate by GK's King, and that Paramount and Sister had stepped up. Because Amblin had also been part of those unavailing attempts to make the rights deal, Steven Spielberg reportedly read the Deadline break and appealed to King, Paramount's Jim Gianopulos and Sister's LA chief Stacey Snider. Amblin was given a 25% co-fi stake in the production. Sister, the venture just launched by Elisabeth Murdoch, Snider and Chernobyl producer Jane Featherstone, will come on as either a producing partner or a co-financier in its first U.S. project.
The Bee Gees accounted for worldwide sales of more than 220 million records, established them as one of the biggest-selling groups of all time. Just when the early iteration of the pop band seemed to hit the wall partly because of the rise of disco, the trio got a second wind and became more popular than ever, after writing the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever, which prolonged the popularity of disco and became one of the top-selling albums ever.
McCarten has been nominated for three Academy Awards and five BAFTAs, winning two of the latter. Earlier this week, he was honored at the Hollywood Film Awards as Screenwriter of the Year.