One of Broadway's biggest non-musical hits this year has been August: Osage County, a 3 1/2-hour comic drama about an appallingly dysfunctional family that completely falls apart when its patriarch goes missing. (The photo represents a typical moment.) It inspired rapturous reviews, won five Tonys (including best play), and won the Pulitzer Prize for drama. I saw it when I was in New York in May and can attest to its caustic, dark hilarity and its vividly realistic characters.
It's been known since at least March (thanks, Jeff Wells) that a film version was in the works, but now that Harvey Weinstein has signed on as co-producer, with The Weinstein Company taking worldwide distribution rights, things have heated up. (Not that this was a surprise, considering The Weinstein Co. co-produced the Broadway version, too.) And now the inevitable problems with a stage-to-screen translation become apparent.
First of all, there's the length. The playwright, Tracy Letts (who also wrote Bug, recently made into a weird Ashley Judd movie), is doing the adaptation. Surely Weinstein will pressure him to trim it down. Plays are allowed to run that long; movies usually aren't unless they're big, sweeping epics. Osage County takes place entirely in one house and spans only a couple days of time.
Then there is casting. The Broadway production had no major stars, no big names. The temptation would be to cast someone like Meryl Streep as the acerbic, pill-popping matriarch, Violet. But Deanna Dunagan won a Tony for playing the role, and while she may not be a marquee name, her performance is so brilliantly feisty and malevolent that she should be allowed to replicate it onscreen. She's earned it.