Screenwriter Dean Ward Partners with Choreographer Michael Rooney on 'Freed Unit' Movie Musical
Screenwriter Dean Ward (currently a writer on Chelsea Handler's latenight talk show "Chelsea Lately") idolized Gene Kelly as a kid and even learned to tap dance, eventually taking lessons from legendary hoofers including Gregory Hines, Savion Glover and Charles 'Honi' Coles. Now he is teaming with choreographer Michael Rooney ("500 Days of Summer," "The Muppets") to produce an original film musical in the style and tradition of MGM's legendary Freed Unit, named for unparalleled movie musical producer Arthur Freed ("Singin' In The Rain," "The Bandwagon," "An American In Paris"). Coincidentally, and very appropriately, Michael Rooney is the son of Freed Unit icon Mickey Rooney.
Ward's admiration for Gene Kelly led him to begin a correspondence with Kelly while attending film school at NYU in the early 1990's. Kelly watched Ward's thesis film and wrote Ward a note, concluding with the encouraging salvo, "You must keep working!" Ward's admiration for Kelly never faded and in 2012, after attending a tribute to Kelly at the Motion Picture Academy, he set out to write a passion project paying homage to his celluloid hero and other Freed Unit legends including Fred Astaire, Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra.
Ward recounts, "In the last few years I've noticed a 'Vaudeville Spirit' creeping back into pop culture. Musically-inclined stars like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Seth MacFarlane, Emmy Rossum, Daniel Radcliffe and Jimmy Fallon have proven that it's cool to be more than just an 'actor' or 'actress' or 'comedian'... thankfully, it's suddenly back in vogue to be an 'entertainer'. Amy Adams is a terrific singer and loves musicals, Ansel Elgort, who starred in the Summer's sleeper hit 'Fault In Our Stars,' is an accomplished tap dancer, Emma Stone is a gifted singer. The list goes on and on. I decided the timing was finally right, and the pieces were in place, to write the kind of original film musical I loved as a kid... a contemporary love story -- usually about a pair of entertainers -- that's punctuated with song, dance and show-business satire."