Novelist Michael Chabon readies script for 'Bob the Musical'

UBUD, Indonesia (Reuters) - A movie musical starring Tom Cruise could be nearing production after a decade languishing in development, the screenwriter, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Michael Chabon, said.

“Bob the Musical”, directed by Michael Hazanavicius, (The Artist), tells the story of a man who hates musicals and then wakes up one day to find that his life and the world around him is one big extravaganza of singing and dancing.

“And everything he hates about musicals, that people sing and dance at the drop of a hat, he finds himself doing just that against his will,” Chabon told Reuters at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Chabon said he had just turned in the first draft for the Walt Disney Pictures production, first conceived in 2004, before coming out to the Asia-Pacific for a tour of literary festivals.

Bret McKenzie, one half of musical comedy duo “Flight of the Conchords”, is composing the music and lyrics for “Bob the Musical”. McKenzie won an Oscar for best original song with “Man or Muppet”, for The Muppets movie.

Chabon’s career is swerving towards music as well, said the author of several acclaimed novels, including “Mysteries of Pittsburgh”, “Wonder Boys” and “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay”, which won the Pultizer Prize for fiction in 2001.

Earlier this month, he signed with Universal Music Publishing Group to be an in-house pop lyricist. Universal will look for opportunities for him to collaborate with musicians, he said.

The deal grew out of a songwriting partnership with producer Mark Ronson on the latter’s 2015 best-selling album “Uptown Special”. Chabon wrote the lyrics for nine of the album’s 11 tracks, but not, he said wryly, for the album’s monster-selling single, “Uptown Funk”

“When I turned 50, I started feeling inclined to saying yes to new opportunities,” said Chabon, now 52. He and Ronson were both big fans of 1970s rock group Steely Dan and the story-telling elements of that group’s lyrics and immediately hit it off, Chabon said.

Chabon, who says he listens to music all the time as he writes, says the skill set of writing song lyrics with musicians - and the satisfaction of doing that - is entirely different than the often lonely pursuit of writing a novel, which for him can sometimes take years.

“You’re collaborating with people. Doing it on the fly. They’re tinkering with the melodies, while you’re trying to come up with lyrics on the spot. Eight hours later, you’re done. You’ve made these amazing sounds in one day.”

But Chabon said he hasn’t given up his night job as a novelist. He tends to start writing in the late afternoon and sometimes all through the night at the Berkley, Calif. home he shares with his wife, Ayelet Waldman, herself a novelist and essayist, and their four children.

Reporting by Bill Tarrant; Editing by Nick Macfie