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Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Irish-American remake

It has been way too long since I have played one of my favorite games. It’s the one that my friends Michael and Darlene came up with during various iterations of the Seattle International Film Festival. The one in which, after seeing an interesting and unusual and off-beat foreign film, one tries to imagine what the American remake would be like and which Hollywood stars would be cast in it.

Actually, as it happens, a top secret memo from a major Los Angeles dealmaker has fallen into my possession, and it turns out that Hollywood is way ahead of us. The thrust of the missive is that huge amounts of money can be made by remaking recent Irish films, as there is no translation needed for Tinseltown screenwriters to read and rewrite the original screenplays. Here are the relevant passages:

The beauty of the new wave of Irish films is that they are already in English. While they would have been seen by certain numbers of viewers in urban areas, they have low penetration in the multiplexes where the money really is. With a little bit of tweaking, these movies can be revamped and made accessible to a much larger American audience. Here are some projects that are currently in the very early pre-production stages:

  • Breakfast in America: The title cashes in on pre-built name familiarity and provides a natural path to using a soundtrack built around 1970s and 1980s pop songs, featuring several by Supertramp. Based on the Neil Jordan film Breakfast on Pluto, the movie follows the wacky adventures of a cross-dressing young man (played by Cillian Murphy in the original) searching for his birth father. We anticipate that several A-list Hollywood stars will scramble to play the lead, as they did in the previous remake To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. Although a bit old for the role, Johnny Depp is said to be very interested. If he is cast, there is talk about (in a great movie in-joke) casting Keith Richards as his father. Filming locations will include West LA, San Francisco, and New York’s Greenwich Village. As per findings in early focus groups, this may be revamped as a musical. Based on the strength of his directing job with Hairspray, Adam Shankman will helm.

  • Wind Across the Rice Paddies: A tense and moving war movie, this one is based on Ken Loach’s prizewinner at Cannes, The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Since the original was set during the Irish war for independence and civil war which, frankly, most Americans don’t know much about, our version has been transferred to the Vietnam War. Depending on focus group results, we may still change it to be the Iraq war, in which case the title might change to Wind Across the Desert or even Wind Across Anbar Province. Shia LaBeouf is said to be angling for the Cillian Murphy role, hoping it will be the breakthrough dramatic performance that will propel him into the A-list. In this version, the character goes AWOL and refuses to fight in the war. Jake Gyllenhaal is being considered to play his gung-ho career military brother. Michael Bay, of course, will direct.

  • Listen to the Music!: This is a remake of John Carney’s Once, which got a big boost out of Sundance. In the spirit of the original, we are looking for leads who can do their own singing. Early indications are that Will Smith and Beyoncé Knowles will be cast. The plan is to move the setting to New York City and give it a grittier, more urban, hip-hop tone. The sales projections for the soundtrack alone are out of the ballpark. The beauty of this project is that, having acquired the rights to the original, we can also go ahead and make the sequel to the original Irish movie. Please note that the early working title for the sequel, Twice, has been dropped in favor of Once Is Not Enough. In the sequel, our nameless hero returns to Dublin to look for the Czech woman he left behind and learns that, having returned to Prague, she has been kidnapped by a torture ring in Slovakia and heads there to save her. Eli Roth has turned down the directing job, but Roland Joffé is interested.

  • Jiffy Lube: Despite many high-quality, high-visibility dramatic roles, the real award-winning breakthrough has eluded Jim Carrey. But this may be the one to do the trick. In this sensitive movie, he will play a slightly retarded employee at a quick oil change place in a lonely place in the Midwest. (Title is dependent on marketing arrangement with a major oil change franchise.) It is based on the film Garage, which won some kind of prize at Cannes. Negotiations are ongoing with the Sprouse twins to play the young helpers who complicate the Carrey character’s life. We are trying to get Andy Griffith to put in a cameo as the business’s irascible but kindly owner.

    If these movies do well at the box office, we plan to acquire the rights to older films made in or about Ireland for the purposes of remaking them. Some of the movies under consideration:

  • The Quiet Dude: Ashton Kutcher plays a young man who got into trouble in the big city but has now returned to the small town where he grew up. He becomes infatuated with a local girl, who is feisty and spunky. This is based on the old John Ford movie The Quiet Man. If she is out of rehab in time, the female lead will be played by Lindsay Lohan. Backup plan is to see if Reese Witherspoon is available.

  • That Ryan Girl!: A young bride soon realizes that her new older husband is boring and falls into the arms of younger, more exciting man. We are looking for a dramatic time period to set it in, to provide a passionate background. Possibilities include the Vietnam War or perhaps the current war in Iraq. Story is drawn from the old David Lean film Ryan’s Daughter. Being considered for the three leads are Nicolas Cage as the husband, Kirsten Dunst as the wife and Elijah Wood as the lover. Scouts are looking for a suitable seaside setting, possibly in British Columbia.

  • The Apathetics : An inspiring story of the formation of a rock band. Modeled on Alan Parker’s The Commitments, the band members’ personal stories will be interwoven with the musical sets. We are looking for an existing rock band, whose members can act, to play the leads. Currently considering The Killers.

  • Ned’s Millions: Focus groups suggest that we can’t miss with this wacky story of a winning lottery ticket that goes missing when the purchaser dies of cardiac arrest. It is based on the old movie Waking Ned Devine. We are looking for two veteran actors, with good comic timing, to play the leads. Currently under consideration are Clint Eastwood and Alan Arkin, but our representatives are trying to see if they can coax Paul Newman out of retirement.

    -S.L., 16 August 2007

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