EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures acquired the John Fusco spec script Phantom, a package that includes producers Harvey Mason Jr of Harvey Mason Media, and John Legend and his Get Lifted Film Co production partner, Mike Jackson. Pic will be an adaptation of the 1910 novel by Gaston Leroux The Phantom of the Opera, located in contemporary New Orleans.
Ty Stiklorius is the executive producer.
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Fusco, whose script work includes crossroads and Hidalgo, had the idea after reconnecting with the music scene of the French Quarter where he started, during the shooting of the photo of Bonnie and Clyde The bandits.
“I was in New Orleans with Costner, Woody and John Lee Hancock and found myself reconnecting with my old musical haunts and the next generation of my music friends,” he told Deadline. “I started playing with them again, writing music and recording two albums and during the pandemic I thought about this trip and wanted to bring together screenwriting with songwriting and this music with a full musical. ” This led him to the novel LeRoux, which is in the public domain and has been done several times and served as the basis for the hit musical Andrew Lloyd Webber.
“This is set in the sultry nightlife scene of modern New Orleans, the world of jazz, R&B, neo-soul and funk,” Fusco said. “The French Quarter, where New Orleans is not only known as the most haunted city in America, but music, French Creole culture, voodoo mystique, Mardi Gras masquerade pageantry, simply lent itself to a natural adaptation of the Parisian setting, and a story that has revenge, unrequited love and mystery.
He said it was a dream come true to work with Mason Jr (his film and television productions include Jesus Christ Superstar Live, Sing & Sing 2, Dreamgirls, Pitch Perfect and Respect), and Legend and Jackson, who just produced the docus The legend of the metro and A crime on the bayou, as good as Jingle Jangle: a Christmas journey, the last of which was produced with Harvey Mason Media. Among other things, they will help shape the musical sound around the story of a HER-style neo-Soul singer who is flanked by a mysterious man, as mysterious incidents occur at a famous club trying to keep it going.
Mason, who worked closely with HMM’s Creative Director Britt Burton and Fusco, said “this story was super exciting for us. We’re fans of what Andrew Lloyd Webber has done, but placing it in this place and in a contemporary context is such a cool take on that makes the music match the city.
Harvey Mason Media is represented by UTA, Artists First and Granderson Des Rochers lawyers; Get Lifted is WME and Del, Shaw, Moonves; Fusco is represented by UTA and Cliff Roberts of Syndicate.
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