The ’80s megamusicals Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera, and Cats have had megagrosses and megaruns — but also megaproblems being turned into films. This month Les Miz’s movie fortunes revived with word that director Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy) will helm the film version, replacing Alan Parker (The Commitments), who was originally set to direct back in 1988. The big-screen Phantom, with Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford, was aborted more than a year ago in the wake of Brightman’s divorce from composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. Even the film that’s furthest along, Steven Spielberg’s animated version of Cats, has been littered with problems.
Spielberg announced his plans a couple of years ago, but the movie stalled because the show, based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, a book of poems by T.S. Eliot, lacks a dramatic structure. ”My job was to create a story,” says screenwriter Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King). The movie was then planned for a 1993 release, until composer Lloyd Webber, again, caused a Cats delay. ”Andrew wasn’t happy with the arrangements that had been done on the songs,” says LaGravenese, ”and decided he would do it himself. But he’s too busy with his stage version of (the 1950 movie) Sunset Boulevard now and won’t have time for Cats until that’s finished.” Which means it won’t be until 1994, at least, that Cats finally lands on its feet.