The practice of remaking a film has gone on for decades, but lately, the do-overs don't seem to be doing as well. Ghostbusters, which went out of it's way to establish its own universe, underperformed at the box office, while Ben-Hur belly flopped with a budget of $100 million and an anemic opening weekend of $11.2 million. And yet, despite these losses, Hollywood keeps right on cranking them out. If fans liked it the first time, why wouldn’t they like it again?
This is the notion that studios are operating under. One after one, classic pieces of cinema are being reupholstered and re-imagined for modern audiences; from ensembles like The Magnificent Seven (which was an American remake of The Seven Samurai) to gender-swaps like Ocean’s 8 (another remake of a remake). It’s a recycling loop that will go on as long as movies are made-- a practice that can either make for embarrassing duds or stunning reinventions.
Here are 15 Remakes You Didn't Know Were Coming.
As the most discussed project on the list, Splash has drawn lots of attention for its gender-swap romance. The 1984 film focused on a young boy who’s saved from drowning by a mermaid, only to have her return 20 years later and fall in love with him. In the new film, beautiful mermaid Daryl Hannah is being swapped out for dashing merman and Magic Mike star Channing Tatum. With comedienne Jillian Bell in the Tom Hanks role, the premise has been lauded for its changes and criticized for its blatant attempt to cater to female crowds.
Either way, the romantic fantasy will benefit from the input of original director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer-- both of whom have struck a deal to release the film through Disney. To further sweeten the pot, Hanks seemed keen on the idea while promoting his new release Sully, telling Entertainment Weekly: “Fantastic! Why not! Give it a shot.” It’s still unclear as to who will direct Splash, or when production will begin, but at the very least, it sounds like the two-time Oscar winner will be buying a ticket.
While Ron Howard looks to be onboard with a remake of his hit film, not all directors share his positive view. Case in point: horror auteur Dario Argento, who fails to see the need in retelling his 1977 classic Suspiria. The original film, a landmark in the gothic giallo genre, tells the story of a young ballet dancer (Jessica Harper) who transfers to a prestigious academy only to find a front for murder and occult practices. Enhanced by dizzying colors and a Goblin soundtrack, it is a horror film that, as Argento affirms, “has a specific mood.”
“Honestly,” he explained to Indiewire, “I do think it would be better if it wasn’t made.” The decision to do so falls not to Argento, however, but to 20th Century Fox and director Luca Guadagnino, who seem keen on defying their stacked odds. Stars like Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, and Dakota Johnson have been signed on, while Guadagnino vows to make his remake, set in 1977, the “most Fassbinderian of his films” in reference to German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Say what you will, the man has a unique vision.
In the original Papillon (1973), Steve McQueen tackled solitary confinement, betrayal, and hostility while remaining overtly cool. He was, after all, Steve McQueen-- the man behind the nickname “King of Cool.” As such, Danish director Michael Noers may have bit off more than he could chew when he decided to remake the revered prison drama. Chosen star Charlie Hunnam is solid, as proven in Pacific Rim (2013) and Sons of Anarchy (2008-2014), but having to compete with McQueen would be a daunting task for any actor.
Noers took further steps towards legitimizing his remake with the casting of Emmy winner Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) as Papillon’s sidekick Louis Dega. Once again, Malek runs into a tough predicament with the role, as he will be acting in the shadow of yet another legend: two-time Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman. As good as the film may be, the chance of a modern day Papillon trumping the original are slimmer than a successful prison break. Wish them luck.
12 Little Women
A seminal novel by Louisa May Alcott, Little Women has been the subject of a lengthy cinematic history. Silent versions were released in 1917 and 1918, George Cukor helmed a version in 1933, Mervyn LeRoy in 1949, and Gordon Hessler for television in 1978. Yet it was Gillian Armstrong who bestowed moviegoers with a definitive take in 1994; backed by an exceptional cast of Susan Sarandon, Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Bale, and an Academy Award nominated Winona Ryder. A financial and critical success (Roger Ebert commended the film for being “surprisingly sharp and intellectual”), Armstrong’s Little Women is the standard by which the upcoming remake will be compared.
Details have been scarce, but what we do know is that the film will be distributed by Sony Pictures and produced by Amy Pascal, who oversaw Ghostbusters and will co-produce 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. Greta Gerwig has also been linked with the TBA project, though it has not yet been confirmed whether she will act or simply adapt Alcott’s novel into a screenplay. Hopefully, the seventh time will be a charm for Sony and these little ladies.
11 Jacob’s Ladder
Jacob’s Ladder (1990) is a stirring experience. Its ability to provoke, depress, and thoroughly discomfort its viewers has rightfully earned it cult status among horror fans. The idea of remaking the film, as was announced by LD Entertainment in 2013, isn’t something that's been discussed in hopeful regard. Any attempts to rekindle the magic of Ladder could very well lead to a messy, meandering disappointment. LD and screenwriter Jeff Buhler feel confident in the project, however, and stress that their film will be less of a remake and more of a “re-imagining.”
Buhler, whose previous work includes The Midnight Meat Train (2012), explained his artistic vision to Chiller, saying that he wanted to not be “necessarily going to the same conclusion" as the original, "and finding a new way to give the audience an experience that is similar in terms of impact and feeling, but that doesn’t play the same tune.” The film will also reunite director David M. Rosenthal and actor Michael Ealy, who previously worked together on The Perfect Guy (2015).
10 A Star Is Born
Few shoes are bigger to fill than the lead role in A Star Is Born. The iconic story have had three industry titans take the reins: Janet Gaynor in 1937, Judy Garland in 1954, and Barbra Streisand in 1976. In tallying twelve Academy Award nominations between the film trio, its understandable that Hollywood would want to return to the well a fourth time. Clint Eastwood was the last to attempt a remake with Beyoncé Knowles, but production fell apart when the pop singer dropped out in 2012.
Now, under the vision of Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born is finally getting an encore in the modern age. The actor will play movie big-shot Oliver Niles, while also moving behind the camera for his directorial debut. As for his co-star, Cooper has chosen another pop songstress, Lady Gaga, to tackle the crucial title role. As to whether the American Horror Story actress can deliver remains to be seen, but if she nails it, more than one star will be born this time around.
9 Day of the Dead
Day of the Dead (1985), along with its two predecessors (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead), are everything zombie movies aspires to be. The trilogy cast such a large shadow over the genre that even director George A. Romero has had a hard time replicating the results in recent years. But when Steve Milner took the reins for a Day of the Dead remake in 2008, things got even worse. Rightfully considered one of the worst zombie movies ever made, Day nearly erased any goodwill that fans had built up with Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake.
Nevertheless, writer/director Héctor Hernández Vicens is taking another crack at the Living Dead legend with next year’s Day of the Dead. Initially rumored to mirror Romero’s original, Vicens has since explained that the synopsis for the film will be brand new, and deal with half-zombie, half-humans. Stills of the beloved Bub have already been released online, so here’s hoping the fresh approach is at least an improvement over last time.
8 Murder on the Orient Express
For all the brilliance that Agatha Christie brought to literature, few of her film adaptations have achieved classic status. The standout example, of course, being Sidney Lumet’s Murder on the Orient Express (1974), a lush retelling of one of the author’s most famous novels. The film excelled under its winding narrative and stunning cast of Albert Finney, Sean Connery, Lauren Bacall, and Ingrid Bergman among many others. It is then understandable, if a bit daring, that actor/director Kenneth Branagh has set his sights on this very case for a modern take.
While it would’ve been nice to see a less recognizable story onscreen, there is still plenty excitement to be had. Branagh will assume the lead role of Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, Ridley Scott will produce, and screenwriters Simon Kinberg and Mark Gordon will go about adapting the novel. Rumors of Angelina Jolie’s involvement have come and gone, but Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfieffer, Michael Peña and Johnny Depp have been confirmed to appear.
7 A Wrinkle in Time
Fresh from their joint series Queen Sugar, director Ava DuVernay and producer Oprah Winfrey are reteaming for another teen drama-- this time, it is the beloved science fantasy story A Wrinkle in Time. Madeleine L’Engle’s iconic novel had previously been adapted as a TV movie in 2004, but as the author famously mused upon screening it: “I expected it to be bad… and it is.” Disney hung on the rights to remake the novel, and repeated attempts to do so eventually found solace with DuVernay, who will make history as the first woman of color to helm a $100 million dollar movie.
Aided by screenwriter Jennifer Lee and Winfrey, who will star as Mrs. Which, A Wrinkle in Time looks to be one of the rare remakes that can improve upon its original. Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling have been cast as Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who, while a start date has yet to be determined.
Nosferatu (1922) has one of the richest histories in all of Hollywood. It was the basis for Tod Browning’s seminal vampire film Dracula (1931), the source material for Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), and the inspiration for E. Elias Merhige’s Shadow of the Vampire (2000) among countless others. In the image of the decrepit, titular figure limping through the night, filmmaker F.W. Murnau created one of cinema’s most indelible images-- and one that David Lee Fisher will attempt to recreate in the upcoming Nosferatu remake.
Fisher’s prior experience with “remixing” The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) make him a logical, if daring choice to adapt the tale. For Caligari, the filmmaker used digital technology to “pull” backgrounds from the original footage and implement them into updated version, a trick that’s being put to similar use during the Nosferatu shoot (which is currently underway). At the very least, Fisher, along with Doug Jones, the man behind Guillermo del Toro’s most vivid creatures, will present their remake in a wholly unique manner.
5 The Thomas Crown Affair
MGM can’t get enough of The Thomas Crown Affair. The original 1968 thriller with Steve McQueen was a slick offering that perhaps didn’t age as well as some of the actors’ other works. Still, it was a financial success, and three decades later the feat was duplicated with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo. Critically, the 1999 version fizzled, but James Bond era Brosnan was enough to pack in the theater seats. Now, nearly twenty years later, the studio has repackaged the film once again for Michael B. Jordan.
Jordan is currently on the cusp of stardom, having appeared in popular biopics (Fruitvale Station), franchises (Creed), and soon to be superhero fare (Black Panther). And while there hasn’t been any additional news of writers or a director, it's obvious the studio is intent on aiding Jordan’s rise. Given the track record of the previous Thomas Crowns, it looks as though the 29 year-old is in good company.
4 Charlie’s Angels
Few actresses in Hollywood have been busier than Elizabeth Banks. Between acting in massive franchises (Spider-Man, The Hunger Games) nabbing indie acclaim (Definitely, Maybe, Love And Mercy), and landing a lead villain role in the upcoming Power Rangers reboot, she’s also scored as a producer and director of the Pitch Perfect series. This creative bug has led to Banks’ latest announcement, in which she plans to revive Charlie’s Angels as an action-comedy franchise.
Produced with frequent collaborator and husband Max Handelman, the film will arrive less than two decades after Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu spun '70s TV into box office success. Banks is also reuniting with Pitch Perfect screenwriter Kay Cannon, which is a pretty stellar indicator of the kind of snappy dialogue that fans should expect. There has been no word yet on who will be cast, or whether Banks will take one of the lead roles herself, but judging by her recent win streak, we’d say it’s going to do just fine.
3 The Crow
The Crow, like so many remake properties, has spent a great deal of time on the shelf. Rumors of its existence date back to 2010, with actors like Luke Evans, Bradley Cooper, James McAvoy, and Tom Hiddleston each attached at one point. The remake seemed to stabilize in 2014 when director Corin Hardy signed on, but a convoluted deal with Relativity Media led to him getting dropped. Now, with an Instagram post showing a rehired Hardy and new star Jason Momoa, it looks like The Crow will finally rise from its cinematic resting place.
The concern, as always, is whether or not it should. Alex Proyas’ 1994 film is beloved by many, and wrapped in an air of tragedy, as it marked the final film of actor Brandon Lee. As for Momoa, the upcoming Aquaman, he hasn’t exactly become a star on his acting ability (Wolves, Conan The Barbarian). Only time will only whether Hardy and his supersized star can leave a respectable mark on the Crow legacy.
2 Big Trouble in Little China
Yes, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will be starring in and producing a remake of Big Trouble in Little China (1986). And while that may just be about the most polarizing pitch on this list, the former WWE star understands your concern. He even sat down with Entertainment Weekly to discuss the matter:
“I loved reading the reactions from the fans, that they were so polarized – I’m the same way. My response is: know that I come to the project with nothing but love and respect for the original, which is why we want to bring on John Carpenter."
It's unclear in what capacity Carpenter will be brought on, but it looks to be a smart move on Johnson’s part either way. Even if Johnson and the writers are simply cashing in on nostalgia by dusting off Jack Burton, the Central Intelligence star seems to be saying all the right things. As for Kurt Russell, who played Burton in the original film, his comments were a little more in line with the rest of the world:
“Go get it, good luck. … I don’t know what their reasons are for remaking the movie, but I hope that they have the right reasons, and I hope that they do it well and good luck.”
From one revered opinion to another, Oscar winner Al Pacino was recently asked about the slated Scarface remake, and he responded to The Hollywood Reporter with this:
“It's part of what we do. We remake things. I may remake a movie I saw recently. I can't say what it is. It's about 50 years old.”
Pacino also added that he found Universal’s plans with the project “interesting,” and assured he would be fine with the project being made either way. It wasn’t a ringing endorsement, but frankly, the notion of taking a story that’s made for two classics and trying to strike gold again is a little risky. Like most of these projects, a parade of filmmakers have boarded and departed Scarface, from David Ayer and Pablo Larrain to Paul Attanasio and its current director: Antoine Fuqua.
Fuqua, whose The Magnificent Seven is about to hit theatres, has had nothing to say on Scarface, preferring to play it quiet until the start date and/or cast have been announced. It’s a long shot to success, but that’s what Tony Montana’s story is all about anyway. Perhaps lighting strikes the same place thrice…?
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