Tom Hanks in “Lucky Guy”: A Final Thank You to Nora Ephron

March 21, 2013

Tom Hanks has no understudy. That’s stating the obvious. The box office advance for “Lucky Guy,” the play about the fabled columnist Mike McAlary by the late Nora Ephron, stands at almost $10 million and it’s all about him. Last week, the drama took in nearly $1.3 million dollars with an average ticket price of $135.59 — second only to the box-office juggernaut “The Book of Mormon.” That’s a record breaker for a play. And expect those grosses for “Lucky Guy” to go even higher with the limited 15-week run verging on a sell-out. What’s left? Premium tickets priced at $348 each. And the show doesn’t even open until April 1, rendering critical opinion nearly irrelevant. Not that the reviews are likely to be less than positive. The early buzz is that while the play is episodic — with lots of direct address — Hanks in his Broadway debut is extremely compelling, an almost sure-fire Tony nominee. Besides, the play is being directed by George C. Wolfe, one of Broadway’s most accomplished directors.

“In my entire career I’ve never seen anything like this kind of demand,” said a production insider. “We’re being bombarded by every star in Hollywood who wants to come to the opening.”

That desire can in part be attributed to the popularity of Ephron among her film peers. The show, which began life as a screenplay, is turning out to be a glorious memorial to the woman who, while she was alive, made no secret of her ambition to have a Broadway hit. She was thwarted in that aim in 2002 when her first play, “Imaginary Friends,” opened to lackluster reviews and closed quickly, even though it had the inestimable Cherry Jones and Swoosie Kurtz battling out the nasty rivalry between writers Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellman. She and her sister Delia Ephron had better luck with the off-Broadway hit “Love, Loss, and What I Wore.

At one of her last public appearances — at a Four Seasons lunch last April honoring Mike Nichols and the cast of “Death of A Salesman” — Ephron told me, “I’ve got a good feeling about this one.” She was referring at the time to the bio-drama about McAlary that she’d been working on for nearly a decade. As a reporter herself at the New York Post — where her subject had been a Pulitzer-prize-winning star before his untimely death, at age 41, of cancer — Ephron knew the beat and the searing hunger for scoops. Asked who was likely to star in “Lucky Guy,” she smiled enigmatically and said, “Someone who’ll make me look good.” In a recent New York Times profile, Hanks jokingly expressed a desire for a hot-ticket status for “Lucky Guy.” “My biggest dream is that there are fistfights out at the box office every night for whatever standing-room tickets are left.” It looks like his wish, as well as Ephron’s, is coming true.

By Patrick Pacheco

Source : ArtInfo