Friday, December 11, 2009

In the Making of NINE [3/10]

He continues: I have always felt a personal obligation to Fellini, who so graciously allowed me to adapt his masterpiece, who trusted me to honor and respect it. And now, Rob has returned this gift to me, and also to Fellini, by doing justice to the film.”

Marshall and Weinstein engaged two screenwriters with a unique perspective to tackle their vision of turning NINE into a drama with music: the Oscar®-nominated writer/director Michael Tolkin (THE PLAYER) and the late, Oscar®-winning writer/director Anthony Minghella (THE ENGLISH PATIENT, THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY), himself of Italian heritage and steeped in a profound love of Italian films. Their writing was inspired not only by Fellini, Kopit and Yeston, but by their own personal experiences with moviemaking, imagination and life. (Minghella would pass away before the film completed production, making NINE his final work.)

Simultaneously, Marshall began auditioning a roster of essentially every leading lady in Hollywood and beyond—because he always believed that the script should be written to the cast, rather than the other way around. Marshall, along with his creative partner John DeLuca, held singing and dancing work sessions with nearly every female star of renown while the screenplay was still being forged.

Meanwhile, Yeston told Marshall to “call me when you need me” and three weeks after their initial meeting, he was on the line. Shortly after, Yeston met with Marshall and John DeLucaaround a piano to begin the process of adding three entirely new songs to his uniquely expressive score.

The idea exhilarated Yeston. “We talked about the fact that the stage show had several reality based songs that needed to be re-invented in order to fit the film’s concept: the songs exist as fantasies in Guido’s mind. So the film needed these new songs. It was a chance for me to re-imagine my own work for film,” he says, “and it couldn’t have been more exciting or satisfying for me to write new songs in a different art form for such brilliant stars.”

Despite the decades-long gap, Yeston found the characters seemed as alive as ever to him, especially with the film’s dynamic casting. He wrote the lullaby “Guarde La Luna”with Sophia Loren in mind as Guido’s beloved Mama. “The original song for Guido’s mother in the stage version is a quintessentially high soprano song and Sophia Loren is not a soprano so the song would not have the same effect,”he explains. “My goal was to write a song for Sophia that would still have the same lyrical and musical function but that would respond to her vocal range and, even more so, the very essence of this extraordinary woman whose DNA is part of the fabric of Italian cinema. I took some very haunting music from the song “Waltz from ‘Nine’” in the stage show and transformed that into this song.”

Yeston also wrote a new song for Marion Cotillard as Guido’s weary wife, Luisa: the powerful “Take It All.” It originally was going to be a trio for Cotillard, Nicole Kidman and Penélope Cruz but when that felt at odds with the narrative, a fresh idea emerged. “Rob and John came up with a premise for the song that completely opened a new world for me,” notes Yeston. “It was a chance to give the marvelou
slytalented Marion Cotillard a heart-wrenching, soul-searing performance number and that is what she delivers in the film.”

Finally, Yeston wrote “Cinema Italiano a playful ode to the enduring pop culture influence of Italian movies performed by Kate Hudson as a style-savvy Vogue journalist. “Kate has a spectacular voice and is a great dancer so we wanted an up-tempo number rich with dancing and singing for her,” he says. “The song turned out to be a great idea for reasons that weren’t immediately apparent. It became a witty, entertaining way to show audiences of today how in 1965, Italian movies were the new wave of excitement and the very pinnacle of cinematic achievement. It was also a way to reveal how Italian movies not only gave the world a new film style but a new fashion style, as this realm of skinny ties and speedy sports cars became a lifestyle to which people everywhere aspired. Kate took all that and hit it out of the park.”

In addition to the three new songs, Yeston made changes to the lyrics and music throughout.“The songs needed to fit hand-in-glove with the characters as Rob envisioned them and the actors who portray them,” says Yeston.

While a few songs from the original play were cut to enhance cinematic fluidity, as is common with stage to screen transfers, Yeston feels nothing has been lost. “I have not lost any songs because they are still in the stage show. Instead, I have gained a newly transformed version of my work,” he explains. “From the moment I fell in love with 8½,NINE has been a life-long project for me. I love the material and I see it as an on-going process that never is final. At the end of the day, my work is a theory, and it takes performers in a particular medium to make it a reality or audiences. A new version doesn’t cancel out previous versions or future versions. That’s what makes it so thrilling.”


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