EXCLUSIVE I told you ten months ago that Barbra Streisand would direct her first film in 16 years. It was called “Skinny and Cat.” Colin Firth and Cate Blanchett were all set to star in it. Alas, I am now told that “Skinny and Cat,” a love story about famed photographer Margaret Bourke White and novelist Erskine Caldwell, will proceed without Streisand. Blanchett is also gone, succeeded by Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (who actually resembles Bourke White). The financing is completely in place, and the producers are looking for a new director.
But the back story here is quite amazing, and a real Hollywood saga. This project has been kicking around since 1982, when producer Linda Yellen wrote her first script and spoke to Streisand about acting in the film. For years, sources say, like thirty, no one said a word about it. Then last year Streisand expressed interest in it as a director. Unfortunately, a new draft of “Skinny and Cat” was quite different than the one Streisand had last read. Still, she was adamant about directing it.
In Hollywood, it’s all about scheduling. Even as Streisand felt committed to the cause, she had other projects like a world tour. (Not many directors are also international superstar performers.) Insiders say Streisand was unable to make meetings about the project last fall. In the meantime, Yellen set the movie up with producers Holly Wiersma and Logan Levy under their Lagniappe Films banner. That trio, not Streisand, owns the rights.
During the fall of 2012, when they were unable to secure Streisand in writing–couldn’t make a deal–the trio of Wiersma, Levy and Yellen brought on indie director Drake Doremus (“Like Crazy”). The producers, I’m told, offered Streisand a chance to be a producer on the film without the hassle of directing. Streisand’s reps said she would only do it if her contract read “producer for life.” She was still smarting, they say, from losing out on directing and producing “The Normal Heart” after being involved with it for 30 years.
The “Skinny” trio declined. I’m told what happened next was the threat of legal action against them from a litigator representing Streisand.
Last week, an item appeared on the blog deadline.com that Streisand would direct a movie about Bourke White and Caldwell, financed by Russian backed Aldemisa Films. There was a lot of confusion. It turns out, that movie, whatever it is, is not “Skinny and Cat.” Streisand, they say, has found a new script about this historical literary couple, and is developing it herself.
Only one problem there: the new script for the other movie cannot in any way use material from 30 years of drafts of “Skinny and Cat.” There are voluminous files of letters, snail mail, email, and drafts of the script as it changed. Bourke-White and Caldwell, names probably completely unknown to anyone under 50, are probably getting a kick out of all this attention wherever they are.
“Skinny and Cat,” meantime, is only absent a director, since Doremus is gone too. Otherwise it’s ready to be filmed. Firth and Weisz would be a sensational combination. Someone on imdb.com should change the info, including the budget, which was “never” $50 million. “Skinny and Cat” is an indie film with a $12 million budget at best.
And Streisand? She’s about to start a sold out tour with dates in Europe and Israel this June. She also has a monumental project coming up with the musical “Gypsy” for film. She’s also receiving the prestigious Chaplin Award from the Film Society of Lincoln Center on April 22nd.