The Diva Whisperer
BY Ari Karpel
November 19 2010 5:00 AM ET
Steven Antin has just breezed in, sunglasses on. He’s barely sat down and he’s waving to some folks the next table over. “This is totally high school,” he says. “I’ve been on the lot for several years. You see the same people every day.”
It’s a little more than a month before the release of Antin’s feature directorial debut, Burlesque. He is still deep in postproduction, but he has stepped away for a quick meal in the dining room on the Sony Pictures lot in Culver City, Calif. “I’m about to graduate—I hope!” he says, adding, “On November 24, when the movie opens.”
Whether Antin “graduates” or not hinges on how people react to his movie, an original musical that marks both the big-screen acting debut of Christina Aguilera and the long-awaited return of Cher. At this point, though, it’s hard to say whether Burlesque will be the next Chicago—or the next Showgirls.
No matter what it will be (at press time, all the studio had made available for review was a dazzling 40-minute clip reel of musical numbers), one thing is for sure: Burlesque is the gayest movie of the year, and not just because it’s a musical starring Cher and Xtina.
If Sony Pictures is high school, then Screen Gems—the Sony specialty films division that nurtured the development of Burlesque and will launch it in wide release before Thanksgiving—is the glee club. “We’ve all been to Palm Springs for the weekend, sitting at the same pool,” says Clint Culpepper, president of Screen Gems, of his personal and working relationships with the team he put together for the film, starting with writer-director Antin, producer Donald De Line, and costume designer Michael Kaplan. “We all grew up watching musicals, so for all of us to work together was kind of like, ‘Hey, let’s take these two icons and make a really fun musical!’ ”
The whole thing wouldn’t have happened without Culpepper’s guiding hand. Recalls Antin: “For several years, Clint said, ‘Will you sit down and write this fucking movie already? I know this movie’s in you. Just write it. If you write it, I’ll make the movie.’ ”