It seems that the much anticipated Lee Daniels television remake of The Valley of the Dolls has been put on hold due to legal issues. That is unfortunate because I had the chance to read the Jacqueline Susann novel recently and it is a deliciously edgy soap opera. I have friends who are devotees of the campy 1967 film, but while the film is passable, the acting leaves a lot to be desired and the story veers very far from the original novel.
So now is my chance to fantasy cast a new version of The Valley of the Dolls and stay true (at least somewhat) to the novel that takes place over 20 years from 1945 to 1965. First, we’ll look at a film version, then TV and finally the amazing possibility of a stage musical.
For those unfamiliar, The Valley of the Dolls follows three friends: Anne, Jennifer, and Neely as they find love, loneliness, and liberation in post-WWII New York, Hollywood, and Paris. Anne is the good girl from an uptight New England family who brings natural beauty and class to her work as an agent assistant and eventually a commercial model. She becomes obsessed with a handsome but irresponsible Englishman, Lyon Burke. Although she eventually marries him and has the child she never knew she wanted, he feels trapped and routinely cheats on her.
Anne Welles & Lyon Burke: Film Version
Natalie Portman is my top choice. She showed real depth in her Oscar winning turn in Black Swan, and she has the requisite class and beauty to carry off this role. Carey Mulligan, who shines in everything she does would also be at the top of my list as would Anne Hathaway, who often plays more offbeat roles but would really have a chance to take center stage with this juicy role. In the book, Anne is described as a blonde with glacial blue eyes, but I think it works better to cast a brunette to show some differentiation with Jennifer.
Lyon Burke has to have the right blend of charisma, masculinity, and ego. Christian Bale is best known for his role as Batman and his high octane Oscar-winning performance in The Fighter, but I would like to see him in this romantic lead role playing a man without a mask. In The Dark Knight Rises, it was refreshing to see him as just regular Bruce Wayne for a while and I hope to see him in more leading man parts. Henry Cavill, the new Superman seems an obvious choice for his dashing good looks, but he has also shown that he can play a cheating bastard in his role on The Tudors. Luke Evans isn’t quite the household name just yet, but that is set to change. After gaining recognition in Immortals last year, his upcoming role in The Hobbit films will bring him to an even wider audience. He seems to always be in some sort of period or fantasy costume, so I would love to see him in a pinstriped suit breaking hearts and bedding starlets.
Anne Welles & Lyon Burke: TV Version
Jessica Pare was so great on Mad Men last season. Unfortunately she was snubbed in the Emmy nominations, but if The Valley of the Dolls comes to TV her period work on Mad Men will come in handy. I also think look-a-like lovelies Leighton Meester and Minka Kelly have the charm and grace to play Anne.
Is it obvious that I have a clear vision of Lyon Burke in my head? That’s an important lesson for those actors out there: sometimes you can feel you’re right for a part, but if the creative team has a firm vision of the role, it can be difficult to change minds. Richard Madden of Game of Thrones fame and White Collar‘s Matt Bomer definite have the requisite bravado for the role, and I’d like to see them both play a man with a cruel streak. Rupert Evans isn’t well known in the US, but he might be the best choice for this role. He’s got a solid TV career in Britain and possesses real charm and considerable talent. Finally, Johnny Lee Miller is very familiar with American audiences from TV shows like Eli Stone and the upcoming Elementary. I would love to see him take a bite out of Lyon.
Anne Welles & Lyon Burke: Stage Version
Emmy Rossum would make a fantastic Anne in a stage musical. After taking on one of the most difficult musical scores ever in Phantom of the Opera, she can tackle anything. Broadway songstress Jill Paice would also be a nice fit. She has the pipes as well as the star quality to take on the role. Also, Betty Gilpin is a fantastic young actress who already has a slew of stage credits to her name. She’s a skilled actress who could handle the challenge of singing as well.
For Lyon Burke, British singer and actor Julian Ovenden is an obvious choice. He just has the whole package. Anyone who has seen Hugh Dancy on stage just wants to see more and more. He is a versatile and dependable actor who is up for the challenge of singing. Yes, that’s Luke Evans again! He is an accomplished musical theatre actor as well as a rising film star.Is there anything he can’t do?
Next time, we’ll cast fantasy Neely, Jennifer, and Helen Lawson!