Filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s iconic cold war comedy “Dr. Strangelove” is being adapted for the stage by Armando Iannucci (“Veep”). Oliver winner Sean Foley (“The Play What I Wrote”) will co-write, and direct. But the duo is already facing a huge challenge- finding an actor as versatile as Peter Sellers was in 1964 film.
This is a very tall order when you consider that Sellers flawlessly played 3 different roles in the original. He portrayed a German scientist, a British officer, and an American President, which isn’t something most actors would even want to do. Let alone on a medium like the stage which leaves little room for costume changes.
“They’ve got to be a great comic actor, of which we have very many,” Foley told BBC News. “They’ve got to be of that shape-shifting kind of quality. They’ve got to want it.”
“It’s going to be a really tough gig,” he admitted, making no bones about how complex this will be. “I’m sure some people, when we approach them, are going to go, ‘No way, I’m not going to be compared with Peter Sellers in those roles.’”
Not to mention Kubrick’s estate is very precious about adaptations of his work. “We have always been reluctant to let anyone adapt any of Stanley’s work, and we never have,” the director’s widow, Christiane Kubrick, said. “It was so important to him that it wasn’t changed from how he finished it.”
“But we could not resist authorizing this project: the time is right; the people doing it are fantastic; and Strangelove should be brought to a new and younger audience,” she added. “I am sure Stanley would have approved it too.”
“It seems the right time to remind people of the mad logic behind these dangerous games that superpowers play,” Iannucci said. “In these sad times, what better way to cheer the nation up than a stage show about the end of the world.”
“Not just with the war in Ukraine, but also the whole apocalyptic sense of global warming and so on – it feels like a very relevant reassertion of the message that, this is the madness staring at us if we don’t do anything about it,” Iannucci explained. “And currently, we aren’t doing anything about it. So the outcome is not good. But if you can leave the theatre with that message and a smile, then all the better.”
This makes sense, considering “Dr. Strangelove” was released only 2 years after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Despite the current global and political climate inspiring this stage adaptation, “Dr. Strangelove” will still be based in the 1960s.
The show will hit London’s West End sometime in the fall of 2024. We’ll let you know what we hear about casting.