In 1932, director Howard Hawks introduced Scarface to the movie world – with Paul Muni playing a gangster fighting Prohibition in Depression-era Chicago. Over fifty years later, in 1983, Al Pacino delivered a career-defining role in the loose remake of Scarface – with some help from director Brian DePalma, writer Oliver Stone, and the drug culture of 1980s Miami that inspired that particular version.
Now more than 30 years after Pacino as Tony Montana said the legendary “Say hello to my little friend,” recent talk from major Hollywood outlets (The Hollywood Reporter and Nikki Finke’s Deadline among them) have Universal Pictures prepping another version of Scarface for the modern audience.
For die-hard movie fans, especially of either Scarface, there had to be one thought circulating: This is a joke, right?
While Universal does have the right to pursue another Scarface (since the company produced both versions), it keeps reminding people of a familiar trend in Hollywood these days: taking on hit movie ideas and somehow re-working them for today’s filmgoing crowds.
The real question to be posed: Are original filmmaking ideas somehow just too dangerous for today’s studio executive looking to keep his/her job and keep the company they’re running above water? It seems to be a possible answer. Last year, there was a bonafide hit in Christopher Nolan’s very original sci-fi drama Inception – but was overshadowed by Tim Burton’s Disneyfied remake of Alice in Wonderland. Other big movie hits last year were remakes – The Karate Kid (with Jackie Chan in the Pat Morita role), the Coen Brothers’ take on True Grit (though many consider that film the superior version when compared to John Wayne’s 1969 version), and even the sword-and-sandals epic Clash of the Titans got a new treatment (30 years after the Ray Harryhausen-driven camp classic).
This year, audiences had to go through unnecessary new versions of Arthur (with Russell Brand in Dudley Moore’s shoes), the cult ’80s horror hit Fright Night, another sword-and-sandals tale in Conan the Barbarian (minus Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Sam Peckinpah’s ultra-violent Straw Dogs (with James Marsden playing the Dustin Hoffman role, and modernized for present times). Yet all of them failed at the box office, but it seems Hollywood executives are not giving up on bringing the remakes out.
On October 14, there will be new film versions of two popular 1980s films. The 1984 musical drama Footloose is getting a Southern country treatment from director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow), and features Dennis Quaid, Julianne Hough and newcomer Kenny Wormald. Then there’s a new version of The Thing, nearly 30 years after Kurt Russell and John Carpenter teamed up for their version (which was, in itself, a remake of Howard Hawks’ 1951 chiller The Thing from Another World).
And now there’s a new version of Scarface coming soon. Whoever ends up directing the film, or writing the script, or taking on the lead role, will have some tough shoes to fill – and not just with regards to the 1983 classic. There’s also a 1930s film to look up to, even if it may end up being not as memorable as the Pacino-DePalma film.
It seems the classics can’t be left alone, to be discovered and embraced by new audiences. There has to be a new version of the old story for executives to hatch, with the real hope of it making money. Hopefully any inferior newer remakes can inspire audiences to look up the older classic takes, and embracing them instead of the new films being forced out.