January 30, 2004

Showtime rolls out 'Reefer' pic

By Andrew Wallenstein

Showtime is lighting up "Reefer Madness," the off-Broadway musical satirizing the evils of marijuana, as an original film.

"Reefer" will reunite the creative team behind the stage version -- writers Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney and director Andy Fickman --which won numerous awards and had an extended run at the Hudson Backstage Theatre in Hollywood in 2000. The film is the first longform effort greenlighted by Robert Greenblatt, who joined Showtime as entertainment president in July.

Acknowledging that greenlighting a comedy musical is an unusual choice, Greenblatt emphasized that Showtime has diverse ambitions for its original films. "I do want people to see that we are open to doing all kinds of different things," he said.

"Reefer" is a parody of the 1936 film that offered an overblown estimation of the dangers of marijuana usage. Future generations of college students came to enjoy the original for its unintentional comedic effect.

The stage version made light of the hysteria-whipping "Reefer" by imagining marijuana as a gateway to ghastly consequences like animal cruelty and cannibalism.

Murphy acknowledged that premium cable is the only place the racy "Reefer" could run without compromising the content. "We don't have the restrictions on where we can go for humor that we would have had on broadcast television," he said.

Added Studney: "It never leaves the realm of good rock musical theater."

Fickman said he always envisioned the production as a musical movie.

"From the very first time Kevin and Dan gave me the script, it was impossible for me not to think 'Rocky Horror (Picture Show)' or 'Little Shop of Horrors,' " he said.

The addition of an orchestra and the elimination of a few songs is expected for the Showtime version of "Reefer," but fans will still recognize the finished product.

No casting has been set, but Greenblatt promises cameos aplenty. "Reefer" will be shot on a Vancouver soundstage starting in April in anticipation of a 2005 airdate.

"Reefer" will be the first joint production in a new partnership Showtime has struck with German financing and production company Apollo Screen. Jim Veres and Jan Korbelin will serve as executive producers.

Prior to Greenblatt's arrival, Showtime had already decided to cut down on the number of original films it produced per year. He will stay the course, holding the network to six to eight movies this year and in 2005. "By virtue of doing fewer of them, we'll be able to promote them better," Greenblatt said.

David Stern negotiated the talent and financing deals for Showtime. Murphy is repped by Endeavor and lawyers Jamie Mandelbaum and Darren Trattner. Fickman is repped by Ken Greenblatt at Genesis and Evan Corday at Evolution. Studney is repped by Ken Greenblatt, Mandelbaum and Trattner.



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