Stars of “Total Recall,” Colin Farrell and Jessica Biel
Kate Beckinsale as Lori Quaid
“Total Recall,” – In theaters Aug. 3rd
“Recall” remake: Hollywood’s been remaking movies since the silent days, realizing that if a picture works once it has what it takes to work again.
With that in mind, studios have repeatedly dipped into their vaults over the years to remake or reinvent past hits. A case in point is this weekend’s launch of Columbia Pictures’ PG-13 rated sci-fi action adventure “Total Recall.”
Directed by Len Wiseman (“Live Free or Die Hard”), the remake stars Colin Farrell in the role Arnold Schwarzenegger created in the 1990 original directed by Paul Verhoeven (“Basic Instinct”).
Farrell plays a man on the run who thinks he may be a spy after going to Rekall, which implants in clients’ minds false memories of lives they wish they’d actually lived.
“Recall” number one was produced by Carolco Pictures, a high flying indie production company at the time whose roots were in foreign sales. It was released domestically by TriStar Pictures, a sister division to Columbia that was competing as a new major studio then but today is essentially a label to distribute acquisitions by Sony, which bought Columbia in September 1989 from Coca-Cola for $3.4 billion.
The first “Recall,” which also starred Sharon Stone, was inspired by Philip K. Dick’s classic sci-fi short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.” The film, which reportedly cost $65 million to produce, opened June 1, 1990 to $25.5 million and grossed $119.4 million domestically. It grossed nearly $142 million in international theatres. That was blockbuster business then and a tribute to Arnold’s superstardom.
Twenty-two years later, the remake’s tracking nicely and doing best with over-25 males. Its next best demo is under-25 males. Sci-fi films typically play best to men, so “Recall’s” looking just as you'd expect it to look.
Over the years, Hollywood’s taken all sorts of approaches to making remakes, sometimes even having the original filmmakers direct the new versions. For instance, legendary producer-director Cecil B. DeMille first made “The Ten Commandments” in 1923 with Theodore Roberts as Moses. DeMille remade his film in 1956 with Charlton Heston famously playing Moses.
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1934 thriller “The Man Who Knew Too Much” starred Leslie Banks, Edna Best and Peter Lore. Hitchcock remade it in 1956 with James Stewart and Doris Day. The remake is best remembered for Day singing “Que Sera, Sera,” which won the best original song Oscar in 1957.
Foreign films have served as the basis for many American remakes on the premise that most moviegoers weren’t familiar with the originals. But, once again, if the originals performed well at the boxoffice in their own countries, it’s a pretty safe bet that the same strong storytelling elements will translate well to contemporary Hollywood moviemaking.
One of the best examples of turning foreign films into domestic hits is DreamWorks’ PG-13 2002 horror thriller “The Ring,” directed by Gore Verbinski (“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”), which was based on the 1998 Japanese chiller “Ringu,” directed by Hideo Nakata.
The “Ring” remake cost an estimated $48 million to produce and wound up grossing $129.1 million domestically plus over $120 million internationally. This led to a 2005 sequel, “The Ring 2,”, starring Naomi Watts, David Dorfman and Sissy Spacek, which Nakata directed. It didn’t do nearly as well, grossing $76.2 million in domestic theatres and over $85 million internationally.
Another instance of successfully remaking a Japanese horror film is Columbia’s R rated 2004 release “The Grudge,” directed by Takashi Shimizu and starring Sarah Michelle Geller, Jason Behr and Clea DuVall. The remake was based on Shimizu’s 2002 Japanese film “Ju-on: The Grudge.”
The remade “Grudge” reportedly cost only $10 million to produce. It grossed $110.4 million domestically and nearly $77 million internationally. Not surprisingly, it spawned a 2006 sequel, “The Grudge 2,” which reportedly cost $20 million to produce and didn’t do as well. The sequel grossed $39.1 million domestically and $31 million-plus internationally. The sequel, which also was directed by Shimizu, starred Amber Tamblyn, Edison Chen and Arielle Kebbel.
These are only a handful of the remakes Hollywood’s turned out over the years. In fact, with so many having been done, a book could easily be written on the subject (if it hasn’t already been done).
Looking ahead, there are some high profile new remakes on the horizon. Sept. 21, for instance, will bring Lionsgate’s R rated 3D sci-fi action thriller “Dredd,” directed by Pete Travis (“Endgame”) and starring Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby and Lena Headey. It’s set in the future when atomic wars have ravaged Earth and most survivors live in densely populated crime ridden mega-cities ruled by violent drug lords.
“Dredd” is a new take on 2000 AD’s Judge Dredd comic book series, which first hit movie screens in 1995 as “Judge Dredd” via Cinergi Pictures and Disney’s now defunct Hollywood Pictures label. Directed by Danny Cannon (“I Still Know What You Did Last Summer”), it starred Sylvester Stallone as Judge Joseph Dredd, a cop with full judiciary powers and the ability to use them in the field.
“Dredd” is unusual in that it’s a remake of a film that didn’t do well with critics or moviegoers. The original, which is said to have cost $90 million to produce, only grossed $34.7 million domestically and about $79 million internationally. Clearly, there are much higher hopes for the remake, which has the benefit of opening about 17 years after the long forgotten original.
This Christmas Day will see the arrival of Warner Bros.’ romantic drama “The Great Gatsby,” directed by Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge”) and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire.
“Gatsby,” based on the classic 1924 novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is one of Hollywood’s most remade movies – this being the fifth take on the material.
The first “Gatsby,” which opened in August 1926, was produced by Famous Players-Lasky and released through Paramount (the distribution company name that FP-L subsequently adopted as its own). It was directed by Herbert Brenon (an Oscar nominee in 1929 for his 1927 drama “Sorrell and Son”) and starred Warner Baxter as Jay Gatsby, Lois Wilson as Daisy Buchanan and Neil Hamilton as Nick Carraway).
The first remake of “Gatsby” was Paramount’s 1949 production, directed by Elliott Nugent (“My Favorite Brunette,” the 1947 romantic comedy starring Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour). It starred Alan Ladd, Betty Field and Macdonald Carey in the three key roles.
The second “Gatsby” remake was Paramount’s high profile 1974 production, directed by Jack Clayton (“Room at the Top,” the 1959 British romantic drama starring Laurence Harvey and Simone Signoret) and written for the screen by Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather”, franchise). Starring in the same three roles were Robert Redford, Mia Farrow and Sam Waterston.
A third “Gatsby” remake was produced for television in 2000 by A&E Television Networks, the BBC, Granada Entertainment and Traveler’s Rest Films. Directed by Robert Markowitz (“The Big Heist,” the 2001 crime drama starring Donald Sutherland and John Heard), it starred Toby Stephens, Mira Sorvino and Paul Rudd in the three lead roles.
Christmas Day 2013 will also bring a high profile remake to theatres – Fox and Red House Entertainment’s comedy drama adventure “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Directed by Ben Stiller (“Tropic Thunder”), it stars Stiller, Kristen Wiig and Adam Scott.
The original, also based on James Thurber’s story about a daydreaming writer who imagines himself as an adventure hero, came to theatres in 1947. Produced by The Samuel Goldwyn Company and released through RKO Radio Pictures, it was directed by Norman Z. McLeod (“Topper,” the 1937 romantic fantasy comedy starring Cary Grant, Constance Bennett and Roland Young). Starring were Danny Kaye, Virginia Mayo and Boris Karloff.
MGM and Columbia’s Screen Gems’ remake of the 1976 horror film “Carrie” is set to open Mar. 15, 2013. Directed by Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry,” the 1999 drama for which Hilary Swank won the best actress Oscar), it’s based on Stephen King’s first novel, published by Doubleday in 1973. Starring are Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore and Judy Greer.
The original R rated “Carrie” opened in 1976 via United Artists. Directed by Brian DePalma (“The Untouchables”), it starred Sissy Spacek, John Travolta and Piper Laurie.
Another MGM and Columbia remake (but not via Screen Gems like “Carrie”) in the works is “RoboCop,” opening Aug. 9, 2013. Directed by Jose Padilha (“Elite Squad”), it stars Gary Oldman and Samuel L. Jackson.
The first “RoboCop” opened in 1987 via Orion Pictures, which also produced the R rated sci-fi action thriller. Directed by Paul Verhoeven (the original “Total Recall”), it starred Peter Weller, Nancy Allen and Dan O’Herlihy.
Bottom line: Remakes rule because successful movies depend on stories that work. The easiest way for a studio to believe that will be the case is to take something that’s already worked once and rework it a bit to make it contemporary.