Musical chairs finds ‘American Idiot’ heading to the big screen

The movie musical has been in a strange rut since the success of “Mamma Mia” in the summer of 2008.   After “Nine” proved even a cavalcade of Oscar-winning stars can lead to a box office disaster the following year, Hollywood has been wary about miscalculating on audience’s appetite for singing on screen.  “Princess and the Frog” and “Tangled” proved it can still work in animated form, but “Burlesque” was an expensive fiasco that didn’t help producers trying to revive the relatively recent “glory days” of “Chicago,” “Moulin Rouge,” “Dreamgirls” and “Hairspray.”  Happily, the genre appears to still has some life left in it.

Adam Shankman’s twitter account won’t let anyone forget about his upcoming adaptation of “Rock of Ages” (certainly in the populist “Hairpsray” mold) and Will Smith is actively working on an adaptation of “Annie” for his daughter Willow to star in (a project Ryan Murphy circled and passed).  Now, Universal Pictures and Tom Hanks’ Playtone productions are embarking to quickly bring the Tony Award-nominated “American Idiot” to the big screen.  

Adapted from Green Day’s critically acclaimed album of the same title, the movie will be directed by Michael Mayer who also helmed the stage production. Mayer won a Tony for directing “Spring Awakenings” but has big screen experience with 2004’s indie misfire “At Home at the End of the World” and, um, “Flica.”   According to The Hollywood Reporter, Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”) will write the film’s screenplay.  More intriguing, however, are rumors that Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong may star in the musical’s leading role. When Armstrong stepped in for a short run earlier this year the show’s ticket sales skyrocketed.  No word though on how close Universal or Mayer are toward shooting or whether Armstrong would seriously play the part.

It’s worth noting the Playtone team were the primary producers on “Mamma Mia.”

The “Idiot” news is also noteworthy considering Universal just pulled the plug on a big screen version of “In the Heights.”  There were a number of reasons why, but one of the strangest was show composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda insisting he play his original role on screen. The studio was looking for a more recognizable names in supporting roles, but  the available actors weren’t big enough to justify a $37 million budget. Universal also has the rights to a movie version of “Wicked,” but producer Marc Platt seems in no rush to get that project running considering there are a slew of competitive Oz related movies in the works.

What musicals are you hoping make it to the big screen?  Share your thoughts below.

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