There are a number of powerful women in Hollywood, but it’s taken some of them a decade to launch a big-screen remake of The Women, the all-female comedy-drama by Clare Boothe Luce that was a hit on Broadway and on screen back in the 1930s. Meg Ryan has been trying since at least 1994 to shoot an updated version for New Line; back then she was going to coproduce and costar with Julia Roberts. Ten years later, Variety reports, Ryan and New Line may finally get the film off the ground. She’s turned over producing duties to a fellow who’s known a lot of women, Mick Jagger. And she’ll play a smaller role onscreen, handing over the starring roles to Annette Bening and Uma Thurman.
Luce’s 1936 play, in which a Manhattan socialite’s discovery that her husband is cheating on her sends her circle into a frenzy of scheming and backstabbing, was the Desperate Housewives of its day. The 1939 movie was more Sex and the City, with an emphasis on barbed witticisms and shopping (the centerpiece of the black-and-white film is a Technicolor fashion show). In 1994, Ryan and Roberts announced plans to remake the film. By 1996, they had a script by Murphy Brown creator Diane English. In a staged reading, Ryan played the Norma Shearer role of the wronged wife, Roberts the Rosalind Russell role of her gossipy pal, and Marisa Tomei the Joan Crawford role of the man-stealing tramp. James L. Brooks (As Good as It Gets) was poised to direct. But the project fell apart, apparently over scheduling issues among all the A-listers on board. In the meantime, another revival of The Women, a more overtly sexualized version starring Cynthia Nixon, Kristen Johnston, and Jennifer Tilly, opened and closed on Broadway in the winter of 2001-02.
Now, Variety reports, New Line expects to shoot the movie in February, with Annette Bening as the wife, Uma Thurman as the gold-digger, and Ryan, Sandra Bullock, and Ashley Judd in supporting roles. The screenplay still comes from English, who will make her feature directing debut on the project. Aside from softening the misogyny of Luce’s pre-feminist play, English says she hasn’t had to update much of the story. ”The original was funny but very mean-spirited. It was Luce’s attack on her gender,” English told Variety. ”The catalyst of the story is still one of the women discovering her husband is having an affair, and the reaction of her friends. Unless I screw it up, there’s a built-in audience for this movie.”