There’s never a better chance for the internet to go into shirt-rending mode than when a genre classic gets pegged for a remake, and yet the shameless pace at which Hollywood churns ‘em out has largely battered down the typical bile and rage into a mush of apathy. As evidenced by the “oh well” to the “it ain’t so bad” reactions to watered-down tripe like The Thing premake, I suspect we’ve finally come around to the fact that no amount of bitching will stop them and that the beloved originals (themselves sometimes remakes!) will always sit on our shelves (or in hard drives, as it were) untouched. But what’s the one thing that can shake off that glazed over look in a film fan’s eyes when it comes to a remake of a classic? Could it be… optimism?
I expect much of that will come with news that David “King Kong ain’t got shit on me” Ayers has been hired to add a little bit of his Training Day and Harsh Times touch to this contemporary Scarface remake. The writer (and more recently, producer/director) has been hired by producers Marc Shmuger and Martin Bregman to update the story of a criminal with nothing who ends up taking over everything. This will of course be the second time this story has been remade for the screen, and Ayer’s plans on incorporating ideas from both previous films…
“I studied both the original Ben Hecht-Howard Hawks movie and the DePalma-Pacino version and found some universal themes. I’m still under the hood figuring out the wiring that will translate, but both films had a specificity of place, there was unapologetic violence, and a main character who socially scared the shit out of people, but who had his own moral code. Each was faithful to the underworld of its time. There are enough opportunities in the real world today that provide an opportunity to do this right. If it was just an attempt to remake the 1983 film, that would never work.”
The news comes from Deadline, who make no mention of Ayers potentially directing the film. Since he just completed his most recent directorial effort (not first!) called End Of Watch with Jake Gyllenhall and Michael Pena starring, I would assume that possibility is not entirely out of the question.
It’s interesting that both films depict gangsters operating at the height of economic booms but that this new film, like the 1932 original, will be released several years into a resulting economic downturn. DePalma’s remake was able to swim in the tacky opulence of the 1980s and the explosively abrupt conclusion that sends everything crashing down feels like ominous foreshadowing, whereas the same thing set today would simply feel inevitable. All that to say that the subtext in ’83 was future tense whereas in ’32 and presumably ’13 the subtext was and will be contextually present tense. I hope Ayers bakes these ideas deep into his script as both Scarface films remain very of-their-time, which contributes to their enduring status as classics. A new film won’t be worth much if it doesn’t manage the same. Besides, I expect as much relevant subtext from a Scarface remake as I do from the next GTA game for fuck’s sake.
It’s also worth mentioning that the whole “rise to the top” game has actually been recently changed by a television show of all things… Breaking Bad pitches itself as “Mr. Chips becomes Scarface” and has done it damn well, so the pressure is on!
Think Ayers is up to it?