Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rows of Teeth: Remaking a Classic

Let me start off by saying that I would not be in favor of a Jaws remake. The original is one of my favorite movies ever and is just one of those things I find sacred and untouchable. If you haven’t seen it, you’re an asshole. If you have a reason for not seeing it, like you don’t like scary movies, you’re a pussy asshole. See it, it’s just a movie, and when it’s over you’ll get up off the couch and be alive and in one piece just as you were before you saw the movie, because you’re on land and sharks can’t walk on land….as far as we know.

Just because I don’t think it should be re-made doesn’t mean it won’t be. When you think about it, it’s a prime candidate to be worked over again. The star of the movie (the shark) doesn’t do it for audiences anymore. It looks silly. Today’s technology can help fix that. Also, many of the communication issues the guys face out on the boat would probably be solved by cell phones, so a redone script could help the movie stand the test of time. Also, Hollywood loves to dusk off artifacts, even when those artifacts are pieces of shit and try to recycle them to make a quick buck without burning any real creative calories (I’m looking at you, Sid and Marty Krofft). A new Jaws would make a ton of money, even if it sucks. Guess which half of that previous statement the suits at Universal are more concerned with?

Let’s say I’m asked to make some decisions about the new movie, because, by the time they decide to remake it I’ll be wildly famous and influential (so 2013 at the latest). Here are the things I’d implement and the actors I’d cast for the roles:

Clause #1: The shark in the new movie cannot be shown more than the shark in the old movie.

Much of the fear created in the first movie comes from fear of the unknown. We don’t see the shark for most of the movie, we just learn to associate John Williams’ understated score with the shark’s presence. That association is betrayed later in the movie, which freaks viewers out even more because now we don’t know when the hell the shark is around. This occurred out of necessity, since Spielberg’s animatronic shark was always malfunctioning due to the saltwater, it couldn’t be relied upon for filming. Let’s keep it that way. Shark appearances kept to a minimum.

Clause #2: Matt Hooper has an affair with Mrs. Ellen Brody

Staying true to Peter Benchley’s original novel, in my movie Chief Brody’s busy schedule pulls him away from his wife and family, leaving Ellen lonely and feeling unwanted. She searches for someone to desire her and runs into the Hooper. Hooper is some things Chief Brody is not, super good looking and rich. The trist is short lived as they mutually decide to end things when Ellen realizes her mistake and Hooper doesn’t want to destroy his budding friendship with Martin, or his new friend’s marriage. So the audience likes Hooper, just not as much as we do in the first movie. Richard Dreyfuss is super likeable in the original and I’m not even going to try to duplicate that.

Clause #3: Since Hooper is no longer the smile inducing drug that he was in the first movie, we replace that by expanding the role of Deputy Hendricks. (more on this later)

Clause #4: The movie has to be set in the 1970s

This is important for two reasons. First, Cell Phones would solve a lot of the problems that occur in the first movie so we can’t have that. Some complicated writing could be done to work around it but it’s much easier to set the film in the pre- cell late 70s instead. The second problem this solves is Quint’s age. If the movie were to be set today then Quint would have to be about 75 years old, since he’d have been around 20 during the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. That experience is far too important to Quint’s character to work around, so we won’t. Of course, this means we need to beat viewers over the head with signals of the decade and maybe even create a reason that these events don’t become widely publicized.

The Cast:

Chief Martin Brody (Don Cheadle)

It makes sense. Cheadle has already done a great job playing “Leader of the Victims” in Hotel Rwanda, for which he was Oscar Nominated, so we know he can play the character. I also like the dynamic of a black police chief in a 1970s New England town. Remember, Brody comes to tiny Amity from New York to be the police chief. He is seen as an outsider by the locals, who don’t really trust him, and is terrified of the water. Why not add deep seated racial tension to his list of problems? I also like Cheadle because he is likeable enough to make the audience care about his safety and livelihood, but not so famous that he undermines your suspension of disbelief (like Will Smith, whom I also considered, would have).

Ellen Brody (Vanessa Williams)

A picture of Stacey Dash because...why not

Williams’ acting is fine. She was Emmy nominated this past year. She and Cheadle are close in age (1 year apart) and she’s hot. I like the idea that she is way hotter than Chief Brody but married him for the right reasons. She could have had any guy she wanted but chose Martin because of his character and personality. This makes her affair with Hooper viable, because she is getting a taste of all the things she passed up on to be with Martin. The other two finalists for this role were Stacey Dash (who I haven’t seen in anything since Clueless {that Kanye video doesn’t count} and I’m not confident enough to pick her based solely on that) and Julianne Moore who has already played a sympathetic adulterer (Kids Are Alright) and I buy her in an interracial relationship. Plus, she could act the shit out of Ellen Brody. So Moore is the best actor in the bunch, Dash fits best as the head cheerleader, prom queen beauty (go look at her Playboy spread) and Williams is somewhere in between.

Mayor Vaughn (Stanley Tucci)

In the first movie Mayor Vaughn is ignorant and misguided, not realizing how serious the shark problem really is. In my movie, Mayor Vaughn is more malicious. He is well aware of how dangerous this shark is but cares far more for the lucrative summer dollars the July 4th weekend brings. He want the citizens of Amity to be aware of the danger and avoid the water, but cares not about the tourists looking to spend the weekend at the beach. In the original the viewers are simply frustrated with the mayor, in this version they grow to loathe him. Tucci’s a fine actor with terrific range. He’d get the job done. (also considered: Oliver Platt, who did a fine job playing a power hungy, money loving shit in The Bronx is Burning)

Deputy Hendricks (Seth Rogen)

We don’t see a lot of Hendricks in the original aside from the first half hour where he is assigned random tasks. Hendricks in an islander, one the citizens of Amity have known since he was young, and it’s apparent he has people’s attention and respect solely because of this even though he is totally incompetent. In my film, as I mentioned before, this role will be expanded. I want Hendricks to be a lovable goof, one that likely got to the police deputy job thanks to some form of nepotism. He’s the kind of cop (remember, he and Chief Brody are the only 2 police in town since Amity is so small) that won’t bust the local teens for smoking pot and simply “confiscate it” on his own. Super laid back, he is the foil to the very uptight Chief Brody. Maybe he doesn’t even get realize how serious the whole shark thing is until it he sees it for himself when it gets into the estuary halfway through the movie. He provides the comic relief that Hooper provided in the first film. Hendricks matures as the movie goes on thanks to Chief Brody’s tutelage and the weight of their predicament while he helps Brody to chill out, not be such a douche and reconnect with his wife. The seminal bonding moment occurs when Brody and Hendricks share a joint after cutting open the wrongfully accused Tiger Shark in their search for Alex Kintner. Seth Rogen’s weight loss has him looking younger which is good for this role (he’s only 26 or something in real life but looks at least 30) and I’m pretty sure he won’t have to do a ton of character research to play a stoner, though I bet he’ll do the research anyway.

Matt Hooper (Robert Downey Jr.)

The movie lacks true star power to this point and here is where it gets a little more kick. Hooper needs to be a handsome trust fund baby who has taken full advantage of his family’s wealth and gotten hiself edgeumacated. He’s super smart and he knows it. He’s very handsome and he knows it. He’s rarely wrong has all the material things a person could ask for. However, he’s a super workaholic and has never allowed himself to enjoy his success. He’s addicted to some high end drug, like ecstasy which allows him to feel some chemically induced sense of intimacy with others, intimacy he could never legitimately create on his own because he’s too busy. He and Brody have the same problem with being over worked which is where their bond begins. The difference is Brody has to work as hard as he does to take care of his family, while Hooper has to work as hard as he does because of some deep seated emotional issues. Maybe his parents were very hard on him. Maybe some girl he loved didn’t think he’d amount to anything and he’s spent his life trying to prove her wrong. It could be anything, but he’s not quite right. Downey is a good actor and I’m sure he’d be good. I also considered James Franco and Sam Rockwell.

Quint (Gary Oldman)

Quint seeks a life of vengeance after the incident he endures on the USS Indianapolis, which is a true historical occurrence. The trauma warps his mind. I wouldn’t want to change his character at all. Gary Oldman may not have the physicality to make Quint as intimidating as Robert Shaw did in the original so I’d ask him to put on some weight, but he certainly has the acting pedigree to pull it off. I have nothing else to say about this part.

Alex Kintner (Justin Bieber)

Kintner is the shark's second known victim.  He begs his mom to stay in the water for a while longer and the decision turns out to be fatal.  Now would I really cast Bieber for the role? No. His presence would make the death less believeable and campy.  It'd just be fun to watch the reactions of his fan base while he is torn to bits.  I'd cast a random unknown kid.

Okay, I’ve clearly spent way too much time think about this hypothetical film, which will never get made. I encourage comments and suggestions from readers, so I don't feel like a total loser who wasted a couple hours on this post.

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