Theater producers love turning movies into musicals, and the energetic, Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” looks like a good candidate for a screen-to-stage makeover. But after years of negotiations proved fruitless, a planned London musical about the rags-to-riches game show contestant is now being developed without the participation of any of the film’s key creators, including director Danny Boyle and composer A.R. Rahman.
The loss of Rahman means that the popular song “Jai Ho,” along with the Indian songwriter’s other compositions for the 2009 best picture Oscar winner, would not be a part of a “Slumdog Millionaire” musical.
Boyle, who is currently producing the opening ceremonies for the Summer Olympics, Rahman, screenwriter Simon Beaufoy and producer Christian Colson wanted to collaborate on the musical and talks about a potential “Slumdog Millionaire” adaptation started soon after the film’s theatrical release.
But the quartet apparently asked for standard creative rights and ownership that producer Paul Smith, whose Celador Films made the 2008 movie, was unwilling to grant, according to four people close to the film who were not authorized to speak publicly.
“I’m certainly saddened by what’s happened,” Beaufoy said in an email. Rahman and Boyle’s representatives confirmed that their clients are not working on the show, while Colson declined to comment.
Beaufoy is the screenwriter of the 1997 movie “The Full Monty,” which was turned into a successful stage musical that debuted at the Old Globe in San Diego and transferred to Broadway in 2000. (Beaufoy didn’t write the book for the “Full Monty” musical.)
The “Slumdog” musical is in the very early stages of development and might not open for a couple of years, but Smith has discussed hiring screenwriter Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park” and Broadway’s “Mary Poppins”) and director Matthew Warchus (“God of Carnage,” “Ghost: The Musical”), according to people familiar with the musical who were not authorized to speak publicly. A representative for Fellowes said the screenwriter is not currently attached to the show; an agent for Warchus did not reply to an email.
Smith said that “nobody is contracted or close to it” and that mention of any specific names would be “speculation. I cannot say very much because I don’t have a lot to say. There’s absolutely nothing at the moment.” He said there could be some announcements about the show in the next several weeks. Smith acknowledged that without Rahman’s involvement or permission, the musical could not use the film’s songs.
Smith said that before the musical can be developed further he needs to acquire rights to some of the underlying material, including the book on which the film is based, Vikas Swarup’s “Q&A,” and the game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” which Celador created but later sold to Sony.
In addition to directing movies, the 55-year-old Boyle has a distinguished record staging plays in London, primarily at the Royal Court and at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Two years ago, the British filmmaker directed an acclaimed production of “Frankenstein.” The 46-year-old Rahman’s theatrical record is not as established. He collaborated with Andrew Lloyd Webber on the musical “Bombay Dreams” and the Finnish band Värttinä on a theatrical version of “The Lord of the Rings.”
Musicals based on movies have a long history, but are doing particularly well on Broadway right now, even though “Leap of Faith” just closed after a very brief run. Among the current hit shows are “Once,” “Newsies” and “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” Disney’s theatrical arm, which made the global blockbuster “The Lion King,” is currently developing stage versions of “Shakespeare in Love,” “Freaky Friday” and “Father of the Bride.”