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Bette Midler to Play Mae West

By Jerry Portwood

Once again, HBO is proving that, if you can't get a movie that people want to see financed through the Hollywood system, they're willing to take a risk to get it made. Deadline reports that William Friedkin's biopic about the infamous Wae Mest is in the works and, wait for the best part: Bette Midler will star as the larger-than-life Broadway and Hollywood legend.

The screenplay for the untitled project is sure to get the camp and sexy banter correct since it'll be written by Harvey Fierstein and will follow West from the time she wrote and starred in her scandalous Broadway play, Sex—which resulted in her prosecution and a sentence of 10 days in prison for “corrupting the morals of youth”—to her rise as a Hollywood star.

Mae West's last movie role was as Leticia Van Allen in the adaptation of Gore Vidal's Myra Breckinridge, which starred Raquel Welch and Rex Reed (and was a disappointing flop at the box office), so maybe there will be a chance for some cameos by those two as well.

Friedkin is best known for such films as The Boys in the Band, The Exorcist, and Cruising, but he last directed Tracy Letts' Killer Joe, starring Matthew McConaughey and Emile Hirsch. Jerry Weintraub, who executive produced HBO Films’ Emmy-winning Behind The Candelabra, but was snubbed by the movie studios as being too risky, is also attached as an exec producer.

Although Midler has taken a break from starring film roles, she was last seen on stage to rave reviews in the one-woman show I’ll Eat You Last, about the late Sue Mengers. The play, directed by Joe Mantello, just finished a three-week run at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.

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