My Fair Lady: New Version to Star Keira Knightley

June 6, 2008–Columbia Pictures is prepping a new version of “My Fair Lady” redo, with Keira Knightley ti star as the Cockney flower girl who is transformed into a lady.

The studio declined comment on casting of the project, being produced by Duncan Kenworthy (“Love Actually,” “Notting Hill”) and London legit impressario Cameron Mackintosh.

CBS Films, which owns the film rights to the Lerner & Loewe musical, will co-produce and Sony will distribute.

While it's being called an update, the film will use the original score and retain its 1912 setting. Where possible, Kenworthy and Mackintosh intend to shoot the film on location in the original London settings of Covent Garden, Drury Lane, Tottenham Court Road, Wimpole Street and the Ascot racecourse. (The 1964 Warner Bros. film was lensed entirely on Hollywood soundstages.)

The filmmakers plan to adapt Alan Jay Lerner's book more fully for the screen by drawing additional material from George Bernard Shaw's play “Pygmalion,” which served as the source material for the musical. The goal is to dramatize the emotional highs and lows of Doolittle as she undergoes the ultimate metamorphosis under the tutelage of Professor Henry Higgins.

“This update will preserve the magic of the musical while fleshing out the characters and bringing 1912 London to life in an authentic and exciting way,” said Col co-president Doug Belgrad.

Kenworthy, who worked with Knightley on “Love Actually,” said, “With 40 years of hindsight, we're confident that by setting these wonderful characters and brilliant songs in a more realistic context, and by exploring Eliza's emotional journey more fully, we will honor both Shaw and Lerner at the same time as engaging and entertaining contemporary audiences the world over.”

Mackintosh, who has produced many of the West End's and Broadway's most successful musicals, including “Cats,” “Les Miserables” and “The Phantom of the Opera,” said the story of Doolittle's transformation “couldn't be more timely in a contemporary world obsessed with overnight celebrity.”

Mackintosh has produced two stage revivals of “My Fair Lady”: the first in 1979, with Lerner directing; and a second incarnation, which opened in the West End in 2001 and is now touring the U.S.

“My Fair Lady,” with book and lyrics by Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, was first staged in 1956 featuring Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison. Audrey Hepburn and Harrison starred in the Oscar-winning film, which was directed by George Cukor.

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