Never Before Has a Boy Wanted More! OLIVER! Movie to Conduct Nationwide Search for Leading Lads; Toby Haynes to Direct
As previously reported, a "grittier" big screen version of Lionel Bart's OLIVER! is aiming to start production next year in London, via Cameron Mackintosh and Working Title Films, with Tony- and Oliver-winning choreographer Matthew Bourne on the creative team.
Now, the Daily Mail writes that the filmmakers are planning a nationwide search for the title role and The Artful Dodger. Not only that, but Toby Haynes has signed on as director, and if all goes well with rights deals, the reboot of the 1960 musical will hit theaters at the end of next year.
Working Title is behind both the big screen and stage versions of BILLY ELLIOT, so OLIVER! casting director Lucinda Syson has quite the pool of candidates to comb through. The Mail cautions any U.S. hopefuls that "it's unlikely that any Oliver or Dodger would be cast from America - I was advised they'd have to be British."
"I don't care if Jennifer Lawrence is cast as Nancy and Leonardo DiCaprio as Bill Sikes - no film of Oliver! will work without the right kids to play Oliver and Dodger," an OLIVER! executive told the Mail.
Talking about the adult roles -- Fagin, Nancy, Sikes and more -- Mackintosh previously told the Mail, "There are actors all around for those roles. It comes down to who's available when it's being made."
Director Haynes has worked closely with much of the UK's theatre elite, including MATILDA's Bertie Carvel, DOCTOR WHO's David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi, and SHERLOCK's Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.
OLIVER!, with music and lyrics by Lionel Bart, is based upon the novel OLIVER TWIST by Charles Dickens, which follows a boy who runs away from an orphanage and joins a group of pickpockets. It premiered in the West End in 1960, enjoying a long run, a successful Broadway production in 1963 and further tours and revivals. Major London revivals played in the late '70s, mid-'90s and late '00s -- all of which were produced by Mackintosh.
The first film adaptation, directed by Carol Reed, debuted in 1968 and won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Sound, Best Music/Score and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration. OLIVER! starred Mark Lester as Oliver, Jack Wild as The Artful Dodger, Ron Moody as Fagin and Shani Wallis as Nancy.