Talk Show 2: with Steve Almond, Emily Franklin, Lydia Millet, and Neal Pollack
Topic: Movie Remake
Steve Almond is the author of five books, most recently the essay collection (Not That You Asked), excerpts of which are available at www.candyfreak.com.
Emily Franklin is the author of Liner Notes and The Girls’ Almanac as well as the critically-acclaimed seven-book fiction series for teens, The Principles of Love. Forthcoming from Delacorte/Knopf is a Young Adult novel, The Other Half of Me, and another series from Penguin. She edited the anthology It’s a Wonderful Lie: 26 Truths about Life in Your Twenties and the forthcoming How to Spell Chanukah: 18 Writers on 8 Nights of Lights. She is co-editor of Before: Short Stories about Pregnancy from Our Top Writers. More about Emily at www.emilyfranklin.com.
Lydia Millet’s most recent book is Oh Pure and Radiant Heart. She is the author of several previous novels, including Everyone’s Pretty and My Happy Life, which won the 2003 PEN Center USA Award for Fiction. She lives in the desert outside Tucson, Arizona.
Neal Pollack is the author of the somewhat ballyhooed memoir Alternadad, and also several books of satirical fiction, including The Neal Pollack Anthology Of American Literature and the rock-n-roll novel Never Mind The Pollacks. He’s the founder of www.offsprung.com, a humor web site for parents. He lives in Los Angeles, with his family.
—name a movie you’d remake.
SA: Fatal Attraction.
EF: I’m torn here. Part of me says remake a personal favorite: The Philadelphia Story with George Clooney as CK Dexter Haven and Kate Winslet as Tracy Lord (not the porno girl, the Katherine Hepburn role). Parker Posey would be the female reporter with one of the bright young males out there (Jake G., Tobey M, etc.) in the dorky but endearing Jimmy Stewart role. Abigail Breslin as the precocious Dinah Lord. HOWEVER… why mess with a great thing? I can’t make it better. So why not pick something hiding from current audiences. Something like Little Darlings—the teen camp romp with heart.
LM: No remake in the world could be as good as making an original feature out of Karl Capek’s visionary book, War With the Newts, a hilarious and poignant ’20s sci-fi allegory about the discovery of a race of giant newts that eventually takes over the world.
NP: There’s this comedy called The Farmer’s Daughter from the 1940s, starring Loretta Young and Joseph Cotten. It’s about a Swedish farm girl who heads to the big city to go to nursing school, but gets robbed and ends up being the housekeeper to a congressman. Anyway, it turns into a big political parable and she winds up going to Congress because she’s so straight-talking and sensible and the politicians are all so corrupt. I’d like to see this get remade today, maybe as a Mexican-American comedy. The themes are still relevant.
SA: Laura Linney, because I’ve yet to see her dig deep into her insane sexual energy/ambition. The woman is the finest actress of her generation, but she needs to make it bleed.
EF: See above for the first idea. Perhaps for Little Darlings we could have two fresh-outta-rehab girls. Or better, do a major casting call for one city girl—harsh around the edges but longing for love—and a rich girl with longings. Film the casting calls, make it into its own reality show/pr vehicle. Plot’s the same—two girls at camp bet who will be the first to be deflowered. Then shove Dave Duchovny in the professor-ish role and Ralph Macchio (he still looks young, right?) in the city tough-boy role.
LM: Stellan Skarsgard could star as the drunken, opportunistic Dutch sea captain who discovers the newts and starts trading them as slaves.
NP: I’d need to get an attractive Hispanic actress with good comic timing. Anyone know any of those? I suppose an open casting call would work. I don’t know. Gael Garcia Bernal in drag? The Joseph Cotten role could be played by any one of a dozen guys.
—who would direct and why?
SA: Brigitte Rouan. She directed this awesome French film, Post Coitum in 1997. I’d select her because she has a precise eye for female sexual abandon. Her heroine was destructive and tragic, without ever seeming absurd.
EF: Um, George Cukor if he were able. But failing that, Wes Anderson for The Philadelphia Story and Hal Hartley for Little Darlings. Or the reverse.
LM: Lars von Trier could direct, but with a huge blockbuster budget and a strict anti-Dogma 99 mandate from the execs.
NP: Whoever was cheapest. This isn’t a movie that needs an artistic treatment. Getting the right screenwriter is far more important.
SA: Definitely the sex-on-the-counter scene. In fact, maybe extend that scene, and all the other sexual scenes. The connection is carnal and frantic and flagrant. It should play like that on-screen. Fuck the ratings system. Hard.
EF: The plots—they’d still stand the test of time. I’d keep the settings, too. You can’t beat camp cabins and woods and certainly I’d want to revisit the estate on which most of The Philadelphia Story is set.
NP: I liked the heroine’s competence. She’s smart and handy, and not girly at all. She’s someone who can do anything, without frivolity.
—what would you change?
SA: Most of the early scenes are terrific. It’s when Glenn Close turns all psycho and witchy that “FA” descends into bathos. If the film takes into account the husband’s recklessness, his passive sadism, the distress of his mistress becomes more understandable, and the film far deeper. In typical Hollywood style, they bowed to the patriarchy. They allowed a serious film about female disappointment to degenerate into a histrionic slasher thing.
EF: Some of the music. The tag line from the 1980 Little Darlings (“Two 15-year-old girls from different sides of the tracks compete to see who will be first to lose their virginity while at camp”) because, though it gets the point out there, it might not suit the thing once these directors get hold of it.
NP: In the original, the heroine has these big-lug Swedish brothers who come in handy when she’s kidnapped by mobsters hired by an opposition politico. There’s this great fight scene. I’d like to give her some good-guy cholo brothers who drive around in a low-rider and perform more or less the same function. Maybe they’re more urban, though.
SA: I think we all know where this is going: I get Michael Douglas’s part. And I’m happy to get myself offed at the end, as long as Laura’s holding the blade.
EF: I’d like to consult on the music. I’d pick the soundtrack—some original work, some classic songs. And then also have a role like “woman in yellow dress” or “counselor #5”. Just something to show the kids. “Look, Sweetie. There’s mommy. Not—not that one. Wait pause right there. See? The lady in the yellow dress. No. Not that one. The one behind her.”
LM: And I could never have a part in any movie, because I’m the worst actor in the world.
NP: I’d probably just be a newspaper reporter in the background of the larger scenes. That’s all you’ll really want me to do. Anything else would just distract.