Who can play Dean Martin? That is the question — with Jennifer Love Hewitt poised to star as Deana Martin in the film adaptation of Deana’s best-selling memoir, Memories Are Made of This: Dean Martin Through His Daughter’s Eyes. Joe Mantegna is lined up to direct and coproduce. and Bonnie Hunt is writing the script.
“I really don’t know who could play him. We may have to do a big casting call,” surmises Deana, who points out that the role spans decades. People have thrown out names including James Franco, Hugh Jackman, and even Johnny Depp, “but I don’t know,” she says. “There was something so special about him, so funny, with that charisma and that little gleam in his eye.”
Deana tells us that she and Jennifer Love Hewitt shook hands on Hewitt’s anticipated involvement, which came about in an amazing way. “I was performing at Feinstein’s in New York last year, and I was talking about the book and the movie between songs, and I said, ‘I’ve always wanted Jennifer Love Hewitt to play me.’ And this voice came from the audience: ‘Okay, I’ll do it!’ She and her mom were there. It was so wonderful, I get chills thinking about it!” Deana exclaims.
Deana is touring the country with her “Deana Sings Dino” multi-media show this summer, but was back in Beverly Hills this week finalizing plans for a second collection of “The Best of the Dean Martin Variety Show.” The first two-DVD set was just released a few weeks ago by Time-Life and NBC-Universal. It’s done so well, the second is now targeted for fall — with bonus features including commentary by Deana, who appeared on the variety show herself many times.
For various reasons, including the working out of rights and residuals agreements, Martin’s famous variety show has never been available on home video until now. Guests are a who’s who of talent of the day — John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, Orson Wells, Peggy Lee, Jack Benny, George Burns, on and on — but it was the preternaturally relaxed Dean himself who was the weekly draw, making it all look easy and fun. That’s even though, as she points out, “it was very, very hard work, which I didn’t realize until I was on the show.” And that glass of scotch perpetually in Dean’s hand was really apple juice.
Could be that the movie, as well as the DVDs, are benefitting from the resurgence of interest in the cool, classy aspects of the 1960s, as exemplified by “Mad Men” and the forthcoming “Playboy Club” and “Pan Am” on TV and Catch Me if You Can on Broadway. Not that Dean Martin and the Rat Pack have ever been out of style, but the ground is definitely fertile for him to be rediscovered again.
“He had his gimmick. He was the King of Cool, with the cigarette, the martini, the tux,” she notes — but Dean in real life was far more complicated, aloof and mysterious. He was, Deana stated in her book, “not a good father, but a good man.” That will be one juicy role.