LUTON, England — The neatly groomed crowd in period tuxes and gowns standing in the English countryside could easily give onlookers the feeling they've traveled back to the roaring '20s — were it not for the presence of camera crews, publicists and a shirtless Robbie Williams strumming his guitar between takes.
The handful of extras at the stately Luton Hoo mansion on this particularly hot day roughly 30 miles outside London are part of MGM's forthcoming "De-lovely," a new musical about legendary songwriter Cole Porter. The film stars Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd and will include song and dance numbers by Williams, Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow, Elvis Costello, Diana Krall and Vivian Green.
One girl on the set tells a friend she feels like she's in "The Great Gatsby," but "De-lovely" is a bit more ambitious than that. Based on a screenplay by "Gangs of New York" scribe Jay Cocks, the film will see Porter (Kline) looking back on his life as though it were one of his elaborate plays, delving into his complex relationship with his wife Linda Lee Porter (Judd) and, of course, his music.
Kline will perform close to 14 songs himself, including a duet with Judd on "In the Still of the Night," while Crow sings "Begin the Beguine," Alanis dances and swaggers through "Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love," Costello gets a grip on "Let's Misbehave," Green croons "Love for Sale" and Williams tackles the title track. Jazz artist Krall will try her hand at two different songs — "I Get a Kick Out of You" and the movie's former working title, "Just One of Those Things."
Born in 1891, Cole Porter's resume includes films like "Silk Stockings," "High Society" and "Night and Day." He also wrote the stage shows "Paris" and "Frenchman" and enduring songs like "Anything Goes" among several others throughout his life, until his death in 1964.
Scheduled for release sometime next year, "De-lovely" is being directed by Irwin Winkler, a producer for films like "Raging Bull," "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" and the "Rocky" series. He's also the director of such flicks as "Life as a House" and "The Net."