Janet Mock will return to Old Hollywood with her next project. The “Hollywood” writer-director-producer will reunite with Jeremy Pope, the Netflix series’ newly-Emmy-nominated star, for “Scandalous!,” a drama about Kim Novak and Sammy Davis Jr.’s love affair. Pope will portray the latter. Mock will also punch up Matthew Fantaci’s original script, Deadline reports.
The pic, a “hot package,” is being shopped around to studios. Production is planned for this fall in Los Angeles, and the filmmakers are still casting the role of Novak.
Described as “‘Romeo and Juliet’ set in the backdrop of the Hollywood studio system,” “Scandalous!” sees Davis, a rising, trailblazing Black star, being set up with “Vertigo” breakout Novak by show biz icon Tony Curtis. They two fall in love but “the pressures brought to bear on both were unimaginable as word of their romance hit the Hollywood gossips,” the source details.
“Legend has it that each had reasons to fall in love: Davis had been the victim of extreme racism from the days he got his nose flattened in the army fighting his fellow soldiers all the time, and initially wasn’t able to stay in the Vegas hotels where he performed, until pal Frank Sinatra interceded. He would later tell a biographer he wanted to show them all by dating the most desirable white woman,” Deadline recounts. “As for Novak, she was being exploited by [Columbia Pictures head Harry] Cohn in loan-out deals to other studios that paid him fortunes while she made pennies starring in movies; Cohn was also a suffocating and malignant influence on her. This was a way to establish her independence. But mostly, the stars just fell in love.”
The interracial relationship wasn’t just seen as a scandal by the press and public — it posed a physical risk for Davis. “He took flack from civil rights leaders who thought it unwise for Davis Jr. to date outside his race, and it got dangerous for him when a hit was placed on Davis — it was believed that Cohn called in the contract. While Sinatra and gangsters like Mickey Cohn and Sam Giancana kept him safe in Vegas, Davis was forced into a bogus marriage with a Black singer, Loray White, to call off the heat,” according to the source. “[Novak and Davis] broke up not long after — she was disillusioned about things like pay disparity for actresses and left Hollywood soon after to become a painter in Big Sur — and they didn’t see each other again until the Oscars in 1979, where they danced at the Governor’s Ball, and again when she visited Davis on his death bed.”
“Scandalous!” isn’t the only film Mock has in the works. She is also directing and co-writing “Janet,” a Netflix drama inspired by the true story of Janet Cooke, the former Washington Post journalist who won a Pulitzer for a fabricated investigative piece.
Mock became the first trans woman of color to write and direct a television episode with a 2018 installment of “Pose,” the FX ballroom drama for which she also writes and produces. Last year she scored an Emmy nod when “Pose” was nominated for Outstanding Drama Series. She has also directed an episode of “The Politician” and produced documentary “The Trans List.” With the overall deal she inked with Netflix last year, Mock became “the first out transgender woman empowered to call the creative shots at a major content company.”