NEW YORK -- The Tony Awards shone a spotlight Sunday night on an accomplished actor with a film pedigree who this season anchored a stage drama about love and death.
No, not Tom Hanks -- yeah, he was nominated too -- but Tracy Letts, who became the rare personality to win Broadway’s top writing award (for “August: Osage County” in 2008) and its top acting prize (he took home the Tony for leading actor in a play for his extremely well-regarded turn as George in the fall revival of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”).
Letts will soon make his presence felt in another medium: film.
A theater veteran of the Chicago Steppenwolf variety, Letts has penned movies based on earlier pieces such as “Bug” and Killer Joe.” Now he’s bringing his big Pulitzer Prize winner “August: Osage County” to the screen. And he’ll have the help of some pretty big Hollywood names.
The dysfunctional-family dramedy stars Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, playing matriarch and complicated daughter, respectively, of the larger-than-life Weston family. If that star power wasn’t enough, George Clooney is among the producers. John Wells directs the movie, which the Weinstein Co. is to release in November.
The trailer that premiered to reporters at the recent Cannes Film Festival had a weepy, inspirational feel that might surprise those who know the hard-edged observational style of Letts’ work. But the writer was quick to caution not to judge a movie by its early footage.
“The trailer is designed to get people to see the movie,” he told The Times at the Tony Awards on Sunday, adding with a don’t-worry note in his voice, “The action of the play is the action of the film.”
Letts wrote the screenplay and spent time on the movie’s Oklahoma set. It’s his name that, to insiders at least, offers a note of reassurance that the picture has retained the jagged edges that made the play so noteworthy. (Some of those other names, particularly Clooney and producing partner Grant Heslov, help too.)
As for other Hollywood projects, “Virginia Woolf” -- to many theater-watchers the best show on Broadway in the last year -- may not be getting a new film treatment anytime soon (Mike Nichols, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor took care of the last big one in 1966), but Letts will still be seen in front of the camera: He’s just been made a regular on the upcoming third season of Showtime’s “Homeland.”