Done Away with

AS NORMA DESMOND, THE FADED FILM star at the heart of Sunset Boulevard, is led away by the police, she speaks the ageless line, “I’m ready for my closeup now, Mr. De Mille.” But for composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, who created the stage remake of the classic 1950 film, Faye Dunaway would never be ready for her closeup. On June 26, as Glenn Close bowed out after her final performance in the Los Angeles production of Sunset Boulevard, Dunaway, her announced replacement, was steaming over the news that she’d been fired. The actress, who had never appeared in a stage musical, said Lloyd Webber had “severely damaged” her reputation.

Lloyd Webber also shut down the rest of the projected six-month L.A. run (it will open in New York City in November with Close), claiming that despite three months of training, the Oscar-winning actress could not meet “the musical demands of the role.”

Dunaway, 53, snapped back by calling Lloyd Webber “a capricious man” who had been “changing his mind from day to day.” She claimed her dismissal had as much to do with money as music. Advance ticket sales for Dunaway’s scheduled performances averaged only 1400,000 per week for a show that costs about $650,000 per week to produce.

Dunaway is consulting her lawyer about legal action, a familiar Sunset Boulevard refrain. In May, after Lloyd Webber replaced Patti LuPone, the London Norma Desmond, with Close for the Broadway run, LuPone received a settlement reported to be between $1 and $3 million.

Whatever happens, Dunaway may be forever wary of the musical theater world. Cast male Rick Podell, who plays Manfred, said he had been rejected, then accepted the same day by the waffling Lloyd Webber. “That’s the nature of the business,” Podell said. “Everybody is allowed to change their minds at any time.”

Related Articles