‘Diana The Musical” Launches On Netflix As The Beloved Icon Hits TV, Stage, Movies; Academy Museum Dazzles

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This column documents conversations and events in the award circuit.

Frank Marshall, who produces (with Beth Williams), the new Broadway show, took me on a zoom yesterday. Diana: The Musical In an unprecedented move, the film debuts today on Netflix as a filmed version. Before It will be open on the Great White Way in January.  The fourth season will feature the Princess Diana storyline. The Crown was largely responsible for the roaring success of 11 Emmy wins a couple of weeks ago , and Pablo Larrain’s new and surreal take on Diana’s royal woes took Venice by storm and immediately started Oscar buzz for star Kristen Stewart in Spencer  In fact there was an Academy screening at the DGA Wednesday night featured a Q&A I moderated with Stewart followed by a reception in which Oscar voters, impressed by what they saw, got to mingle with the star well into the night. Broadway? Television? Movies? It is clear the late great Diana is back in the spotlight, and with Emma Corrin’s Emmy nomination, a possible Oscar nod for Stewart, and maybe a future Tony for Jeanna de Waal she has become a magnet for awards buzz. It was an international success. pandemic that is thoroughly responsible for Marshall’s Netflix musical getting its global closeup today.

Marshall has been dabbling in theatre for a while, and of course has bigger fish to fry in movies with two big ones he has been producing during the pandemic – Jurassic World: Dominion  and the new Indiana Jones 5 film that is currently shooting in London – but  it was actually the experience of movie-making during Covid that provided the key to this most unusual launch for Diana. “Necessity is the mother of invention,”He laughed when he explained the difficulty of what to do with a Broadway musical that is ready to go at the same time as everything was shut down. And no idea how long it would take to freeze. “We had the costumes. We had the cast. We had the music. Everything was ready and sitting there. It was really May of 2020 when we started getting serious about this because I knew we had everything in place. We didn’t have to do anything except do the fine-tuning that we were doing in previews (before the shutdown).”

Diana: The Musical director Christopher Ashley who joined Marshall on the zoom call with Deadline told me this was new territory for everyone when I said I had never heard of anything like  going worldwide on a streamer before hitting the stage. “I think you’ve never heard of it because it’s never happened before. I actually think this is completely new territory… once it became clear it was going to be a while, Frank and our other producer Beth Williams started having conversations about like, well, ‘is there something we can do now?’ First of all, we kept doing the work we would have done in previews, so we did all kinds of virtual Zoom workshops to keep working on the material, but Frank took us to Netflix and said would you consider shooting this before we’ve ever opened on Broadway? So, we got back together, instituted our changes, re-rehearsed it, re-teched it, and shot for four days last September.”  The original Broadway cast including Jeanna de Waal as Diana, Roe Hartrampf as Charles, Erin Davie as Camilla Parker Bowles, and Judi Kaye as Queen Elizabeth all changed course and suddenly were on stage at the Longacre Theatre performing for what will be a worldwide audience before ever opening on Broadway.

Marshall was stuck in London. Jurassic Also shut down, the company was just getting back up to speed with Covid protocols. He took that experience and put it all into place in NYC. Diana’s Team, and followed the strict guidelines. Jurassic The stage musical was shot on film. Zoom became a daily occurrence and he thanks Williams, Ashley and other Broadway veterans for their help in creating a show that was comparable to his film work. “We don’t usually have film producers on Broadway shows. So, it was that combination of things, and of course, I love a challenge. I was familiar with the process, but bringing the film side to it was the new thing and unique. Chris and I had been talking about doing movies for a long time. Chris has also directed some films, so it kind of was a natural marriage of the two art forms.”

Ashley points out That because of the pandemic they couldn’t even have an audience, but as fate would have it that This turned out to have been a positive. “Like if you’re Hamilton and shooting with a live audience, you’re having to shoot kind of around the audience and not get in the way of their experience. We could put the camera wherever the sweet spot was. You know, we could move right through where the audience would be. We could shoot back past the action, back at the seats, top shots, side shots, so we really had options that you wouldn’t have with the live audience sitting there.”

Marshall also agreed it was an edge. “And we were able to design our transitions. You know, when you’re shooting a show, you have to wait for the applause, for the laughs, whatever. We made it much more like a movie, and Chris designed the transitions between the scenes to be like a movie. I sat here in this very room with a monitor right here with the nine cameras, and we had the ability to talk to each other during the four days, and we pulled it off. I mean, they were in a bubble for something like six weeks,”He stated. “I think part of that comes from being able to put the camera in the right position, so it’s not a live capture. I mean, the show is designed to be a movie, and the other thing we wanted to do was not get distracted by the microphones on the face and the things that you ordinarily would have in a theatrical show because people are sitting so far back that it doesn’t bother them.”

After getting Diana Ready for Netflix, Ashley was ready to do the same thing for his long-running hit You Can Come From Awayhe won the 2017  Tony for Direction of a Musical) which recently debuted on Apple TV+ just as the original show itself was prepping to re-open on Broadway. It seems like there is a trend here, pandemic or not.  Naturally Hamilton Originally intended to be released in theatres, the Emmy for Variety Special (Prerecorded) won its live performance capture. It has been reopened on Broadway, and is currently on the stage in Los Angeles. David Byrne’s American Utopia is resuming performances on stage in New York even after the success of Spike Lee’s filmed version on HBO that was nominated opposite Hamilton For that Emmy. All of this begs the question – and I asked it – Why Would people pay huge Broadway prices to see a show on TV? This is the case with Diana: The Musical one that hasn’t even yet been reviewed or even opened?

“I think they are two different experiences. You know, live theater is completely different, and I think it’s going to inspire you to go. I think you’ll want to go once you hear the music, you see the dancing, and you know that you can go and sit there and have this experience on Broadway. I just think it’s another way of raising the awareness of our show,”Marshall said Marshall was acutely aware of the marketing potential of live shows with global reach like Netflix. It whets appetites, even though Marshall is fully aware of it. Are The entire show is available to the audience.

Ashley, who is a Broadway veteran and has been the artistic director at La Jolla Playhouse from 2007, has become a disciple. “I think there was a lot of anxiety for many, many years about what you’re asking. If you made a film, would people no longer want to see it live? I think that that’s turned out not to be true. If you look at the beautiful (2002) movie Chicago, there is the Broadway production of Chicago still running. It’s more than two decades it’s been running on Broadway, and I think people saw that movie and said wow what an amazing story. I want to go see it in person myself, so I think they help each other,”He stated.

As an awards columnist, I had to inquire where they see this Netflix film. Diana fitting? Oscars Emmys “I don’t know,”Marshall laughed. “I’m just looking for wood to knock on. You probably have a better guess than we do, Pete, which one we’ll be at,”Ashley stated.

Perhaps. Diana could be the first production ever to qualify for an EGOT in one swing: Oscars (the terrific score is by Tony winners  Joe DiPietro and David Bryan), Emmys, Grammys (for the cast album), and Tonys for the live show which resumes previews November 2  and opens on Broadway November 17.  Ashley even suggested the possibility of a CLIO Award, in case people view the Netflix special as a huge advertisement for the stage production. They can only wish.

‘INDIANA JONES 5’BACK ON TRACK – SUMMER 2022

Marshall was my captive audience. I needed to find out the latest on their status. Indiana Jones 5 The sequel was shot on location in London. In June, production had to be rescheduled due to Harrison Ford’s shoulder injury while performing a fight scene. Marshall says that the film will still be released in July 2022, despite this “hiccup”. “Again, the protocols are in place. We’re shooting in London again. We had a little hiccup with Harrison, but he’s great. He’s back. He’s shooting every day, and all I can say is it looks like a real Indiana Jones movie. It’s so nice to see everybody back.”  James Mangold has taken on directing reins from Steven Spielberg who, of course, handled the first four movies in the series. This one co-stars quite the international cast including  Mads Mikkelsen, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Antonio Banderas.  Marshall’s reboot of another classic Spielberg franchise Jurassic World, Dominion It reunites many of the cast from the original 1993 film, including Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern as well as Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt. Colin Trevorrow, who also directed the 2018 version of the film, is responsible for this one. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. 

I’D LIKE TO THANK THE ACADEMY FOR THIS MUSEUM

Finally let me just say a few words about this week’s spectacular launch – finally –Academy Museum Of Motion Pictures, which has been awaiting since 1929 by some people who are now In it, rather than contributing to its completion. I have followed its progress for many years and even bought a couple of Academy-branded hardhats for various tours. Indiana Jones and those dinosaurs from Jurassic Park weren’t among the initial group of spectacular movie props and characters I spotted as I whizzed through the multi-level former May Co on Wilshire Blvd, but Spielberg is well represented by the imposing Shark from Jaws  That hangs in the ceilings with a sombre look. E. T. is also there along with some incredible Star Wars stuff (George Lucas will soon have his own Lucasfilm Museum in L.A.), plus Blade Runner, Alien, Avatar You will also find a number of special exhibitions, including one devoted to Hayao Miyazaki (Japan anime master), and another Spike Lee exhibit. But after my quick run though every floor during the Academy’s lively and crowded Wednesday night pre-opening party where AMPAS President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson were among execs justifiably beaming at this long awaited moment ( there were other events all week including a pricey gala last weekend), I just had to tell Academy Museum Director and President Bill Kramer the one thing that blew me away was seeing that oil can for the Tin Man for the Wizard Of Oz Exhibit (He agreed). “Wow,”Someone said it as we were both standing in front of it simultaneously. Of course those Ruby Red Slippers of Dorothy’s are there too, and the hat from the Wicked Witch of the West. A couple of special guests opened the museum. Oz Yesterday screenings with live orchestra

It was amazing to see the scope of the Academy’s efforts to make this space a reality, after so many decades of discussing it. This is a movable feast and they will be revolving the exhibition spaces with other aspects film history. But it is really something seeing the humungous painted backdrop from Hitchcock’s North By Northwest Pixar’s spectacular 3D Toy Story zoetrope, the incredible Richard Balzer collection of early pre-cinema devices and projectors, the pitch black room of just sound devoted to the museum’s tribute to female composers – so much more. The hall of Oscars is impressive just in showing the scope of motion picture arts and sciences with a donated Oscar statuette from what appeared to be each of the Academy’s branches (Sidney Poitier’s historic Lilies Of The Field Oscar is there – Hattie McDaniel’s equally historic Gone With The Wind Unfortunately, the Supporting Award is not available isn’t But it is elegantly represented by an empty display box. Recently, a columnist suggested that the Academy should present only six Oscars awards (four acting and picture director), to ensure ratings and leave the rest for the pre-show or elsewhere. This museum is dedicated to every aspect filmmaking and has many more. Never happen. I can’t imagine the Board ever approving such a dumb idea anyway.

The programming of films for the first 3 months is more arty and indie than it represents. I do hope there are tributes to some great filmmakers and actors so that we can enjoy classic films in our new state-of-the arts theatres. I have to say American Cinematheque’s far more inclusive and representative programming currently at the Aero and Los Feliz theatres is more exciting and inventive, and so for that matter is Quentin Tarantino’s eclectic programming for his New Beverly Theatre. For instance Sophia Loren was honored with an inaugural award last Saturday night at the museum’s opening gala, but I don’t see a single Loren movie on the schedule of films running through November. Wouldn’t that have been a no-brainer? That’s a big miss, but at least her photo is on one of the walls representing significant Oscar winning achievements (she was the first to win for a performance in a foreign language).  What about programming 70MM or large-scale epics that would look amazing on those screens? And, dare I say, do better at museum boxoffice. Or, a tribute for the early Hollywood moguls. My two cents, and also motivation for my return to this magnificent place on a weekly basis (that plus the nifty gift shop where we already spent $600 – I just had to have one of those limited edition Lego Oscars). The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has been a remarkable addition to Los Angeles. It is now open and active. We all should be grateful to the Academy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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