A Gypsy Movie Is in the Works, but Who Would Play Mama Rose?

Glenn? Gaga? Melissa?

62nd Annual Tony Awards - Show
Theo Wargo

There are few roles in show-business history that have won as many actresses as many awards as Gypsy’s Mama Rose. The role was originated on the Broadway stage in 1959, by Ethel Merman, and the fact that she didn’t win the Tony that year, despite being nominated, seems like a tragic oversight of historic proportions (though Merman did take a home a Grammy for the cast recording). Four years later, Rosalind Russell won a Golden Globe for playing Rose in the first Hollywood adaptation. Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, and, most recently, Patti LuPone have won Tonys for their portrayals in various revivals over the year (Bernadette Peters was nominated but failed to win for her version). Imelda Staunton picked up the British equivalent of a Tony for the West End version. Meanwhile, Better Midler won a Golden Globe for the 1993 television version. In other words, the role is reserved for legends only.

Now, according to Deadline, a new motion picture version is finally in the works, with The Gilmore Girls and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel creator Amy Sherman-Palladino in discussions to direct. Giving Sherman-Palladino’s recent success with a period piece, and her career-long knack for portraying complicated mother-daughter relationships, it seems like a sensible fit. After all, Gypsy is a musical about the ultimate stage mom. It tells the real-life story of Gypsy Rose Lee as she transforms from a child vaudeville performer into a burlesque superstar famous for her striptease. Constantly in the background is her mother, Rose, who will stop at nothing to make her daughter a star, even as she longs to be one herself. Any actress playing her is charged with channeling manic depressive energy into song.

Sherman-Palladino’s remake will come after a long-planned version with none other than Barbra Streisand attached fell through, and obviously the biggest buzz is around who might play Mama Rose. After all, unless the thing is a total disaster, whichever actress nabs the role is almost guaranteed a Golden Globe nomination in the musical/comedy category, if not status as the frontrunner from the moment the ink dries on the contract. An Oscar nomination certainly wouldn’t be out of the question either. It’s no coincidence that about half of the women nominated for best actress at this year’s Oscars are already being discussed as possibilities on Twitter.

Let’s break down the possibilities so far.

Melissa McCarthy

Fresh off Can You Ever Forgive Me?, McCarthy is the only “official” rumored casting we have so far, in that Deadline mentioned her as a possibility by name. That’s not surprising, since long before shooting to superstardom McCarthy was a regular supporting cast member on Sherman-Palladino’s Gilmore Girls. She certainly has the brassy comedy skills to match any role originated by Ethel Merman, but Twitter is wondering if she actually has the voice. She once recorded a duet with Streisand, but in the video Streisand scoffs, “She’s never been in a recording studio before. This was all, you know, new to her.” We should note that even Deadline passes the McCarthy item off as a rumor and stresses that no casting would be complete until Sherman-Palladino actually signs on.

Glenn Close (with Lady Gaga as Gypsy)

This idea, quite obviously, is inspired by the cute relationship the pair have developed while facing off in this year’s best actress race, but it’s not entirely inconceivable. If Close finally wins her first Oscar, it will join three Tonys on her awards shelf (one of which was for the musical Sunset Boulevard). She can sing (though, we should note, even actresses with great voices have come up short in the role). Meanwhile, sure, we could see Gaga as Louise (who becomes the titular Gypsy). However, playing someone who shoots to superstardom while dealing with the baggage placed upon them by the person who feels responsible for their success is a little bit similar to her A Star Is Born role. In any event, this is mostly Twitter fantasy, but if it actually came true we wouldn’t be mad, necessarily.

Toni Collette

Perhaps owing to the fact that many feel Collette was snubbed across multiple awards shows for her performance in Hereditary, she’s become something of the breakout choice on Twitter. Yes, she can sing. She’s been nominated for a Tony for a musical before and put out an album with her band.

Audra McDonald

People have been petitioning to see the queen of Broadway (she has six Tonys) play the role onstage for years now, so, of course, they see this as her perfect opportunity to finally segue into Hollywood-leading-lady status—and it certainly would be about time.

Patti LuPone

Time and time again, LuPone has proved herself as the living person most capable of reviving a role originated by Merman, and she is the most recent actress to win a Tony for Mama Rose on Broadway, so, of course, she has her backers.

Related: Who Should Play Ursula in Disney’s Live-Action Little Mermaid Remake?