David Oyelowo and ‘Moonlight’ Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney Are Making a Disney Live-Action Musical


Usually announcements of new Disney features are something of a depressing occasion, what with the studio’s recent interest in primarily churning out lousy live-action remakes (Jungle Book notwithstanding!) of their previous animated successes. So it’s particularly appealing to hear about Cyrano the Moor – which, yes, is an adaptation (baby steps here, people), but not of an earlier Disney movie. What’s more, it’s an adaptation of two classic literary properties, seemingly unrelated: William Shakespeare’s Othello and Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. Oh yeah, and it’ll star David Oyelowo, with a script by Tarell Alvin McCraney, whose play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue was the basis for last year’s Best Picture winner Moonlight. And it’s a live-action musical. (Sorry, didn’t mean to turn into Stefon here.)

THR reports Oyelowo will not only star but produce, along with wife Jessica, via their Yoruba Saxon Productions (which was also behind his earlier films A United Kingdom, Nightingale, Captive, and Five Nights in Maine). What’s not yet clear is how Shakespeare’s tragedy of a Moorish general driven to murder by invented jealousy would fuse with Rostand’s story of a swashbuckler who romances the woman of his dreams via a handsome surrogate, but hey, the classical music and hip-hop rhythms of Moonlight’s score shouldn’t have worked together either, so who are we to doubt.

And both plays have been not only adapted for the screen in recent years, but reworked and modernized. Othello was made into a 1995 film starring Laurence Fishburne and Kenneth Branagh, and was then rewritten as a high-school story in 2001 (they were doing that with a lot of Shakespeare then) as O with Mekhi Phifer, Julia Stiles, and Josh Hartnett; Cyrano was loosely and charmingly adapted into Steve Martin’s Roxanne in 1987, done in its original form with Gérard Depardieu in the title role in 1990, and broadcast on PBS (from its 2007 Broadway staging, with Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner) in 2009.

Point is, we’re excited about a Disney live-action musical. And it’s been a while since that’s been the case.