Jennifer Lopez is attached to star in a feature adaptation of the 1993 Broadway musical “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” written and directed by “Dreamgirls” filmmaker Bill Condon, Variety has confirmed with a source close to the production. The music is by legends John Kander and Fred Ebb, based on the novel by Manuel Puig and the book of the musical by Terrence McNally.
The musical is set in an Argentinian prison in 1981. Lopez would play the titular role, a fantasy woman named Aurora created by Luis Molina, a gay hairdresser serving an eight-year sentence for allegedly corrupting a minor. To escape the horrors of his imprisonment, Molina imagines movies starring Aurora as a classic silver screen diva, including a role of the spider woman, who kills her prey with a kiss. Molina’s life is upended when a Marxist, Valentin Arregui Paz, is brought into his cell, and the two form an unlikely bond.
The new movie, which is independently financed, is currently searching for an unknown to play Molina. According to a casting breakdown obtained by Variety, the role “presents as an openly queer and effeminate gay man, but may be on the non-binary/trans femme spectrum.” Rehearsals would start in February with a plan to begin filming in April in New Jersey.
The two previous adaptations of “Kiss of the Spider Woman” — the 1993 musical, and a 1985 feature film adaptation of Puig’s novel from director Héctor Babenco — both won wide critical acclaim and major awards attention. William Hurt won the Oscar for best actor for playing Molina. And the musical won seven Tony Awards, including for best musical and for all three performers: Chita Rivera, Brent Carver and Anthony Crivello.
Condon has become one of the preeminent filmmakers of the movie musical: He wrote the screenplay for 2002’s “Chicago,” wrote and directed 2006’s “Dreamgirls,” directed 2017’s “Beauty and the Beast,” and co-wrote the screenplay for 2017’s “The Greatest Showman.” He also directed both parts of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn,” and most recently directed regular collaborator Ian McKellen in the 2019 thriller “The Good Liar.” He won an Oscar for his screenplay for his 1998 film with McKellen, “Gods and Monsters.”
Lopez — whose ninth studio album, “This Is Me… Now,” is set to debut early next year — is one of the most successful multi-hyphenates in the industry, launching her film career by playing the late Tejano star Selena in 1997’s “Selena.” Incredibly, however, this would be her first role in a full-fledged musical.
Barry Josephson, Tom Kirdahy, Greg Yolen and Matt Geller are producing the film, and Lopez, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and Benny Medina are executive producing on behalf of Nuyorican Productions.
Matt Donnelly, Haley Kluge and Marc Malkin contributed to this story.