ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY – Jason Reitman’s staged live-readings of famous movie scripts has become a must-see Los Angeles event, but the next one will pay tribute to the big city on the opposite coast.
Woody Allen’s Manhattan, the 1979 story of a New Yorker who falls in love with his best friend’s mistress, will be the next film recreated by Reitman at the Film Independent series, set for Nov. 15 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
“From the onset of the Live-Read series, we wanted to hit all the major writers and Woody Allen is simply one of the greatest screenwriters of all time,” the Up in the Air and Juno filmmaker tells EW. “He has ability to match pathos and comedy and drama and then turn it all on a dime. If you’re going to make a series based on dialogue, you can’t find much better than Woody Allen.”
Reitman, whose other films include Thank You For Smoking, Young Adult, and next year’s Labor Day, began staging these readings last year, doing new versions of The Breakfast Club, The Princess Bride, and Reservoir Dogs, among others. He also staged The Apartment in New York and brought a version of American Beauty to the Toronto Film Festival.
Once he decided on Woody Allen, the hard part was choosing which story he wanted to do. “There are so many well-written screenplays. Some would have gone with Annie Hall or Crimes and Misdemeanors, or one of the recent ones like Vicky Cristina Barcelona. For me, there was just something about the tightness of Manhattan, how few characters there are and the way it uses the city.”
The script was co-written by Marshall Brickman, a longtime collaborator of Allen’s who also co-wrote Sleeper, Annie Hall, and Manhattan Murder Mystery.
“It opens with this beautiful monologue about Manhattan, and he speaks about the city with love and fear and admiration,” Reitman said. That scene plays out over images of life in the city, and although some still frames from the movies do appear on a giant screen during the readings, Reitman says, “it will be interesting to just hear the dialogue without seeing all that.”
It’s also a perfect movie for both those who live in New York, and outsiders who are fascinated by it, Reitman says. “Diane Keaton is a transplant, new to the city, versus Woody Allen who is the most obvious native. He is the picture they would put in biology book if you needed a diagram of a New Yorker.”
Those two key roles remain under wraps until the reading next Thursday, but Reitman has some of the casting to reveal:
Shailene Woodley, who played George Clooney’s combative eldest daughter in The Descendants, will play the part of Tracy, the high-school girl Allen’s character is dating. The role was originated by Mariel Hemingway, who received an Oscar nomination for it.
Fred Savage, who recreated the little-kid version of himself in Reitman’s live-read last year of The Princess Bride and the role of lickspittle Brandt in their staged version of The Big Lebowski, will co-star as Yale, the part of Allen’s best friend, originated by Michael Murphy.
Parenthood star Erika Christensen has agreed to step into Meryl Streep’s shoes for the role of Jill, the ex-wife of Allen’s character — who is writing a book about him.
Mae Whitman, who co-stars with Christensen on Parenthood, will play Yale’s wife Emily, originated by Anne Byrne.
And Jason Mantzoukas, perhaps best known as the wooly bearded Rafi on The League, will play Dennis, which was originated by the late, great Saturday Night Live comedy writer Michael O’Donoghue.