[Update: PopWatch is reporting that Robert Zemeckis has declined doing The Wizard of Oz remake. Scroll for details.]
Another one bites the dust. That’s right, Hollywood’s never-ending (not to mention shameless) quest to remake every movie that has ever existed has claimed yet another victim. If you’re one of those rare human beings who somehow, someway managed to enjoy the 1998 remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho by Gus van Sant, then you’re going to love this.
According to Mike Fleming of Deadline, Warner Bros. wants Robert Zemeckis, who’s currently “filming” the motion-capture animated Yellow Submarine, to remake The Wizard of Oz using the original 1939 screenplay.
This won’t even be a redux in the form of an adaptation of the source material, like, say, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or the forthcoming True Grit, thus providing new avenues for where the story can go.
Apparently, Warner Bros. owns the classic film’s screenplay because Ted Turner acquired it with his purchase of the MGM library. Warner Bros., of course, subsequently purchased Turner’s vast empire, thus acquiring the Wizard of Oz screenplay as well.
This bit of news comes right on the heels of the announcement that Disney and Sam Raimi are developing The Great and Powerful Oz, possibly starring Robert Downey Jr. Other Oz projects in development include Surrender Dorothy, a sequel to The Wizard of Oz to be directed by Drew Barrymore, and an unnamed Oz sequel from Warner Bros. about Dorothy's granddaughter. No word yet on whether or not the latter film, with an original screenplay by Josh Olsen (A History of Violence), has been scrapped in favor of this Zemeckis remake.
Speak of the devil, I would love to see someone compile a list of all the remakes going back a decade alongside their critical and financial success rates. With every passing year, there seem to be more and more remakes and less and less original entries in big-budget cinema. Are these remakes so fiscally successful that they’re worth the artistic integrity of the studios and the filmmakers who churn them out?
The fact of the matter is, few people watch Psycho (1998) unless they’re being ironic. When someone mentions Manchurian Candidate, they likely don’t picture Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber, and Meryl Streep, they more likely picture Frank Sinatra, Janet Leigh, and Angela Lansbury. And ten years from now, I hope that when someone wants to see a horror movie, they pick the original Halloween, not Rob Zombie’s. It's getting to the point where television is my main source for high-quality, original, live-action fiction, and that just makes me sad.
Sometimes I wish I could just click my heels together and wish the remakes away.
Hopefully, one day, we can live in a world free of remakes and rip-offs. But for now, we have Louis Letterrier’s Clash of the Titans, Samuel Bayer’s A Nightmare On Elm Street, and, if Warner Bros. gets their way, Robert Zemeckis’ The Wizard of Oz. I look forward (he said sarcastically) to Michael Bay’s Casablanca, now with twice as many sassy black women and 1,000,000% more nuclear explosions.
Update: Well, everybody can calm down now. PopWatch spoke to a source at Warner Bros. who said that while the studio did indeed have a meeting with Robert Zemeckis about potentially remaking The Wizard of Oz, Zemeckis wanted nothing to do with the project. (Score one for Zemeckis.) The source was quoted as saying, "The reports that Robert Zemeckis is doing The Wizard of Oz are absolutely false." Well, to be fair, the reports merely stated that Warner Bros. wanted Robert Zemeckis to direct the remake, which seems to actually be confirmed via this report. Additionally, PopWatch seems to think that, because Zemeckis was the studio's first choice for director, the project will either be moved to the back burner or abandoned altogether. Obviously, I'm pulling for the latter, but I'd feel a lot better if the source had said 'nobody' is doing The Wizard of Oz remake.