Lucky Guy: Tom Hanks makes his Broadway debut in Nora Ephron play

At long last, Hollywood's great polymath is making his stage debut. Nikhil Kumar reports on the actor's role as a legendary tabloid journalist – and the thousands clamouring for tickets

A first for Tom Hanks? The Oscar-winning actor, director, writer and producer appears too have done it all – and won it all – in a Hollywood career spanning more than three decades. But unlike other luminaries from the West Coast – and more than a few not-so-luminous stars – he's never been on the Broadway stage, something that's about to change with the opening next month of Lucky Guy, a new play written by the late Nora Ephron.

Currently in previews, the show is among this season's most hotly anticipated – and ticket sales are said to be booming ahead of a grand opening night slated for tomorrow night.

Ephron, who was a friend of the Hollywood star and worked with him on Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail, began writing the story of Mike McAlary, the fabled New York tabloid journalist played by Hanks, in 1999 – a year after McAlary's death from colon cancer at the age of 41.

Over the years, McAlary worked at all three of the city's tabloids – the New York Post, the Daily News and Newsday – and was reputedly one of the country's highest-paid reporters, known for his stories on crime and the inner-workings of the city's police department. In 1998, he won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of Daily News columns about alleged assault by city cops on Haitian immigrant Abner Louima. While undergoing treatment for cancer, he followed up an anonymous tip to expose the police.

Headstrong and charismatic, this isn't the first time that his life story has been appropriated for the stage. In 2011 he was the subject of Dan Klores' The Wood, which ran at New York's Rattlestick Theatre. He has also been referenced on screen. In 1994, a columnist character in Ron Howard's movie The Paper, about the editor of a fictional New York City tabloid, was said to be based on McAlary.

Ephron, who died last summer at the age of 71, was familiar with McAlary's world: she worked as a tabloid journalist herself, as her son, Jacob Bernstein, remembered in a recent piece for The New York Times.

“My mother knew a lot about McAlary's world,” he wrote. “She dreamed of being a newspaper reporter from the time she was in high school, and wound up spending much of her twenties working at the New York Post. Moreover, McAlary was what she liked to call 'a problematic human being'. And after a decade of writing and directing romantic comedies, a lead character who wasn't entirely likable seemed like a good way to keep herself from getting boxed in.”

The late writer also viewed McAlary's death as the end of an era. “She saw his career as 'the end of something', a bookend to a time when reporters could still believe there was power in the job; when Elaine's was still one of the city's most glamorous rooms; when much of Times Square still belonged to prostitutes and drug dealers; and when the West Village had not yet been taken over by hedge-fund magnates and Russian oligarchs,” Bernstein wrote.

But, as he recounted, other projects kept getting in the way of what was initially meant to be a film for the HBO network. The switch to the stage came much later, in 2008, when Colin Callender, the HBO executive working on the development with Ephron, left the network to go it alone as an independent producer. He then suggested turning the story into a play.

“She'd conceived 'Lucky Guy' [then called 'Stories About McAlary'] as a film for HBO, but the structure was unconventional, relying largely on the other characters to tell their versions of what happened to him, essentially breaking the fourth wall,” said Bernstein. “And everyone, including her, was unsure of how it was going to work on-screen.”

Hanks had come into the picture earlier, when, years before refashioning it for the stage, Ephron had sent him a screenplay. He wasn't interested initially, but reconsidered when he had a look at the stage version.

Now it's his stage debut, directed by the Tony Award-winner George Wolfe and produced by Callender, who, backed by the BBC and HBO, is also currently helping to adapt Hilary Mantel's Booker-winning novel Wolf Hall to the TV screen.

Though ticket sales are reported to be doing well, Hanks stands to cash in some big cheques regardless of the show's success. The star has committed to perform for 15 weeks and will earn 12.5 per cent of what the play takes every week at the box office, according to a recent Bloomberg report. At minimum, however, he has reportedly been promised $75,000 per week, a figure that could climb to $150,000 if the show attracts sell-out audiences.

Moreover, he stands to make money even if he leaves the production after the 15 weeks. If the producers then decide to extend the show, he will continue to get two per cent of ticket sales, according to the show's operating agreement seen by Bloomberg.

He will, however, be hoping for more than just money. He's been very fortunate in Hollywood. Everyone is waiting to see if he's just as lucky a guy on Broadway.

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders