Deep Inside Hollywood

By Romeo San Vicente

Bette Midler chasing Mae

HBO Films recently announced "Mae West," a biopic based on the legendary screen star's autobiography "Goodness Had Nothing To Do With It." Hoping to score another hit along the lines of "Behind The Candelabra," the network has lined up heavy hitters to run the show. The film will be directed by "The Exorcist"'s William Friedkin (who, it should be noted, also directed controversial gay classics "The Boys In The Band" and "Cruising") and written by Harvey Fierstein. And starring as West (and also executive producing) will be Bette Midler, a woman whose own career has more than a little in common with West's. Before Hollywood, both women worked outside the system, Midler singing regularly at New York's Continental Baths and West staging her own plays that routinely scandalized the public standards of the time, works with titles like "Sex" that occasionally forced her to battle and lose against obscenity charges. No other casting has been announced yet so it's unclear as to who will play West as a young woman. And for now we'll just assume that the 68-year-old Midler's contract didn't already force the entire production into a corner requiring digital youngification to make her into a 39-year-old signing her first contract with Paramount. Because that would be weird.

Sofia Coppola moving to 'Fairyland'

Sofia Coppola knows what she's about. Her body of film work has concerned itself with the ways young women respond to being placed in unusual living arrangements. "The Virgin Suicides," "Lost in Translation," "Marie Antoinette," "Somewhere," "The Bling Ring": all of them have in common a sense of adolescent female constriction. Her new project, though, sees life inside a fishbowl as something perhaps more freeing. Coppola will adapt (with Andrew Durham) Alysia Abbott's "Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father." It's a coming-of-age story set in San Francisco, where Abbott was raised by her gay father, Steve Abbott, a widowed poet and activist. Uniquely unsheltered, Alysia Abbott moved among the experimental culture and art scene of the 1970s and 80s, observing it all firsthand as a child before, during and after the first wave of AIDS. No casting has been announced, but Coppola's intuitive approach to the inner lives of girls makes this kind of a perfect fit.

Laverne Cox, breaking out

Laverne Cox, the transgender co-star of "Orange Is the New Black," isn't letting the grass grow under her feet. As one of a handful of rising trans actresses - and clearly aware that the entertainment industry is still figuring out that trans performers exist - she's striking while it's hot. Next she'll be seen in first-time filmmaker Lex Sidon's indie "Grand Street." The plot centers on an out-of-work film executive and aspiring writer as they spend 24 hours traversing the underground culture of New York City. Cox will play a character named Chardonnay and will star alongside Kelly McGillis, longtime character actor Michael Wincott, Sam Robards, British newcomer Charlotte Riley and "Twilight"'s Mia Maestro. Now, about that name: We're going to just hope, strongly, that Cox's performance - and the character, as written - will push the boundaries of stereotype that the name "Chardonnay" brings to mind. But if it doesn't, hey, at least they gave the role to a trans woman.

Meet 'The Fifth Beatle'

Director Peyton Reed ("Bring It On") is about to take on the story of the gay man who was at the epicenter of the rock revolution of the 1960s, a fellow named Brian Epstein. Maybe you don't know who he was, but Epstein discovered The Beatles, got them their first record deal and worked alongside them until his untimely death at age 32 of an accidental sleeping pill overdose. The film is called "The Fifth Beatle" and it's based on Vivek J. Tiwary's graphic novel of the same name. Early stages at the moment, but the project already boasts an impressive feat: access to the Lennon/McCartney song catalog, a privilege afforded to very few. Casting ought to get interesting, too. Which member of One Direction do you think will beg to be considered as John or Paul or George or Ringo? More as this develops...

Romeo San Vicente wants to hold your hand. He can be reached care of this publication or at DeepInsideHollywood@qsyndicate.com.

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