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DREAMGIRLS

Writer-Director Bill Condon Adapts The Book
"You don't know what I'm feeling. I'm more than what you made of me. I followed the voice you gave to me. But now I've gotta find my own. You should have listened.”

The original Broadway production of "Dreamgirls” was "one of those experiences you never forget,” Bill Condon remembers. "It was thrilling, with a brilliant cast and legendary staging by Michael Bennett. With the passage of time, I think it's possible to take a fresh look at this material. The story of the crossover success of African-American music during the 1960s resonates more than ever today, when African-American culture almost defines the mainstream.”

"‘Dreamgirls' came along when music was changing, when the industry began to recognize ‘urban' influences,” adds cast member Eddie Murphy. "Whatever they wanted to call it, it was the same thing – the R&B, rock roots dug by black artists, that is now the sound of the times. And here was this story about this group that rode their sound into mainstream pop America.”

"I saw Bennett's production of ‘Dreamgirls' shortly after it opened, and it was an extraordinary, unforgettable experience,” says Laurence Mark. "The look of that show and the music of that show have stayed with me all these years.”

To transform the book – a written version of a musical play – into a screenplay, Condon wanted to hew as closely as possible to the original material, which cast such a powerful spell on audiences of all ages, from all walks of life, during its original run. For decades, the rights to this property have been closely guarded by one of the stage production's producers, industry legend and DreamWorks founding principal David Geffen.

When Mark first called Geffen, who is a longtime friend, to suggest that Bill Condon would be the ideal choice to write and to direct "Dreamgirls,” the producer recalls, "David spent about fifteen minutes telling me very nicely that this movie would never happen because it was just too much of a risk to take. If it didn't work, he would feel responsible for tarnishing the legend of the show as well as the great legacy of Michael Bennett.

"I told him I completely understood and respected his position,” Mark continues. "Still, I urged him to let me know if he ever wanted to hear Bill's ideas for the movie. After a beat, David invited us to lunch the next day.

"Sometime between the entrée and the dessert, Bill got to talk about what his approach to the movie would be after which David immediately said, ‘Well, it sounds like we should give this a shot.'” The writer-director was heavily involved in pre-production on his acclaimed exploration of sexuality pioneer "Kinsey” at the time, but eighteen months later, Condon's first draft of the screenplay came in, Geffen was keen to move forward..

"David had been protective of this project for so long, and we were honored by his willingness to trust us with it,” says Mark. "I think Bill has this movie in his DNA—one of the reasons he was put on this earth was to make it.”

Geffen proved to be an invaluable resource to the writer-director. "David has these great stories about the evolution of the Broadway production, including the pre-Broadway tryouts of the show in Boston,” Condon says. "When you see a show as an outsider, you might not be aware of the original intentions of the creators—and we took great care to be true to Bennett's legacy. He played a key role in not only the Broadway show, but also our screen version.”

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