Saturday, May 11, 2013

If There Were a Remake… [THE DEER HUNTER]

This may be the most indulgent article series I am going to embark on (maybe only rivaled by my “Casting My Own Movie” series I started but never followed up on), but this should be interesting. I am going to take classic movies and break down who would/could/should be cast in a remake if one were made at this very moment. Obviously, these are films that should never be touched, but it is interesting to think about.

Now with a movie like The Deer Hunter, one that is so fully and completely post-Vietnam in impact and release date, it is difficult to really comprehend how it could be changed in terms of writing and directing. I will assume the movie requires the same traits from the actors, but the overall scope of the movie would probably be changed to fit into the present day. Not an exact science, I know, but it is the best I can do. So, check out what I came up with for the greatest movie of all time, Michael Cimino’s 1978 Oscar-winning masterpiece The Deer Hunter:

Original: Michael Cimino (story), Louis Garfinkle (unpublished script), Quinn K. Redeker (unpublished script), Deric Washburn (story/screenplay)
What is required: The Deer Hunter is not exactly a writing showcase, so it is not a highly sophisticated screenplay. The writer would need to be able to thoroughly develop several different primary characters, as well as making reality out of situations as extreme and provocative as Russian Roulette games. Since the original is over 3 hours, the screenplay does not necessarily have to be tight, but it needs to be thick and deep. It would take a special writer to bring it all together.
Who would be chosen: William Monahan. He would be a tremendous choice. He has worked with several different main characters in a remake format with The Departed. Although not great work, he has worked with war films before with Kingdom of Heaven. He has the prestige of being an Oscar winner, but he really hasn’t worked all that often. I wouldn’t complain.
My choice: David Simon. It is time this guy made a movie. After a couple sensational multi-character TV shows (The Wire, Homicide: Life on the Street) and a really popular war miniseries (Generation Kill), it is clear that he has the resume to take on such this subject. What most attracts me to this choice is his edginess and unrelenting style. That is what is most important for a movie like this. He would probably set it in Baltimore instead of Pittsburgh, but hey… screw the Steelers!

Original: Michael Cimino
What is required: It is difficult to really quantify what Cimino actually brought to the table, since the rest of his career was one giant flop, but the movie really is remarkably directed. It needs to be someone who can bring all three major sections of the movie together into one inspired film. Even in the most extreme and heartbreaking sequences, the movie still needs to be very grounded and realistic.
Who would be chosen: Ridley Scott. For me, this would be a worst-case scenario. However, he has collaborated with Monahan once already (Kingdom of Heaven), and he has made an effort recently to make more domestic dramas between his action, war, and sci-fi pictures. He may be able to pull it off, but I just can’t even imagine having to sit through a three hour Scott movie. If he can calm down his gunfire obsession and make a couple war sequences as disturbing as some of Alien, while maintaining a personal and emotional touch on the quieter scenes, then it could work. Either way, I would not really want to come near this. I would be afraid of what it would do to my favorite movie.
My choice: David O. Russell. He would be a bit of an outside-the-box directing choice, but seeing what he was able to accomplish in Three Kings, as well as the painful humanity of The Fighter, I feel like he could really breathe life into the quieter small-town scenes as well as the gritty, emotional war sequences. It would not be a perfect choice, but he would make it feel more modern and even more relevant today.

Original: Chuck Aspegren
What is required: This is not a really important part, but it provides the slightest bit of levity in the otherwise completely serious movie. He was not an actor, just a steel worker that the crew met on location, but he fit perfectly in with the group of friends. So, the actor would essentially just need to appear as an ordinary guy, as well as deliver and repeat the classic line “Fuckin’ A!” and dip his Twinkies in jars of mustard.
Who would be chosen: Zach Galifianakis. It is not out of the question to think that he could pull this off, seeing how he was cast and was virtually unrecognizable in Into the Wild, but this would actually be a cool role for him. He would be able to provide the light humor of the part, plus he sort of looks like Aspergren. I just feel like he is a bit too old for the part, and his presence might be a distraction from the other characters.
My choice: Michael Gladis. I am always quick to mention actors from my favorite TV shows when relevant. Gladis has always had a slightly humorous part in Mad Men, and this seems like the sort of part that could be a nice introduction into film for him. He looks like he could be a steelworker at times. Since this role is not too vital to the movie, this type of actor is that would best serve Axel’s purpose.

Original: George Dzundza
What is required: This is another part that is not among the main characters, but it is about on the same level as Axel. He is another friend of the main characters. The actor would need to have that ordinary guy feel, and really just seem like he belongs in that group.
Who would be chosen: Patton Oswalt. This may just be another case of the fact that he looks and acts like the original, but he would be the perfect casting as John. He has the quirky attitude as well as the ability to be serious. Even if he just plays it like Big Fan, he will be fine.
My choice: Patton Oswalt. He is just the perfect choice for this.

Original: John Cazale
What is required: Stan is essentially the bullied one of the group. He is absent-minded and weak, but he does provide quite a bit of heart. He is also the oldest of the group. Cazale was one-of-a-kind, and it is almost a shame to talk about replacing his final role, but there is one great choice.
Who would be chosen: Mark Ruffalo. He is excellent at these types of supporting roles, and I could just imagine him in that scene in the cabin absolutely breaking our hearts. He would be perfect.
My choice: Mark Ruffalo. I cannot even picture any other actor in this role.

Original: Meryl Streep
What is required: The part is incredibly subtle and underplayed. The actress would need to be able to show restraint, even in the scenes where emotions are all around her.
Who would be chosen: Jennifer Lawrence. She is the next Meryl Streep, and even though she is too young for this particular part (same thing was said about her in Silver Linings Playbook), she would still be incredible and totally authentic in it.
My choice: Carey Mulligan. She is one of the best actresses out there at being completely believable in her role no matter what the circumstances of the film are. She is perfect at playing the sweet, likeable girlfriend role, which would make her relationship with the leads seem totally genuine.

Original: John Savage
What is required: This is probably the most Oscar-friendly part in the film (and the one that wasn’t recognized). Steven is an emotional character, and there is also something just off about him. He never seems to be fully together, so the actor would need to be believable as a weaker personality. He is essentially the little brother to the others.
Who would be chosen: Shia LaBeouf. I could see him sliding into the role quite nicely. He would not be the best choice, but there could be far worse. He has the nervous energy to nail some of the Vietnam scenes, but he would really need to hold it back in the third act.
My choice: Dane DeHaan. He is one of the top up-and-coming actors out there. He has the perfect persona for Steven. In every role I have seen from him, he just exudes that internally tormented weaker character that this role requires.

Original: Christopher Walken
What is required: Well, Walken gave the greatest performance in the history of movies. It requires something truly special by the performer. More than anything, the role is about facial expressions. The actor needs to be able to show pain and worry on his face, and at other times be absolutely emotionless and heartbreaking. Nick is the most important character in the movie.
Who would be chosen: Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This would be an awesome pick. He can totally own those later scenes, and he has really developed a wide range emotionally. This is the type of role that he needs if he really wants to become an A-lister, which he certainly has the talent to be.
My choice: Paul Dano. This would not be a popular choice, but there are few actors working right now that have mastered facial expressions the way Dano has (evidence: Little Miss Sunshine). He has the total package to do the part justice. He has yet to have this vital of a role in a movie (perhaps There Will Be Blood is the closest thing), but if given the opportunity, he might just blow us away.

Original: Robert De Niro
What is required: Stepping into De Niro’s shoes is always going to be difficult, but this part is not his most iconic. At its core, the part is all about passion and raw emotion. He is the dominant character in the film, also the one most filled with anguish. As opposed to essentially everyone else, he lets it out. He is a volatile, protective, and furious character.
Who would be chosen: Jake Gyllenhaal. I have never been the biggest fan of his, but he can certainly act. I am not sure if he can really hold his own in this big of a part, but I believe he has the tools to pull it off, even if we haven’t seen him do it yet.
My choice: Ryan Gosling. If I had to choose one actor who could become the next De Niro, it is Gosling. He has not really had this fiery of a part in his career, but he would kill it. I cannot even imagine what he would make the audience feel in those later scenes and in the first Roulette sequence…especially being directed by David O. Russell. If there was ever a planned remake of this movie and he signed on as Michael, I would be there.

Anyone else have ideas for these parts? Thoughts? Comments? What movie would you like me to do next? Let me know!


  1. David O. Russell? Lame. I would pick David Gordon Green (non-druggie), Kenneth Lonergan, or Jeff Nichols. And Jessica Chastain as Linda!

  2. This is a great idea for a column, I may have to do one myself...

  3. Ah Jeff Nichols is a great call! I still would like Russell's ability to capture the feeling of all three acts, but he would probably cast Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Ice Cube, and Mark Wahlberg or something. Chastain is a nice choice too.

    And yes, definitely do one. We came up with all our random ones on that two story bus in Vegas. Like Jason Reitman doing The Apartment and Michelle Rodriguez starring in On the Waterfront haha. It's a fun conversation.

  4. How about Mia Wasikowska for Linda?

    And I know Stan is supposed to be older, but Ruffalo is a bit too old. Can't really think of a better option off the top of my head though. Maybe like a John Krasinski? Or BJ Novak?

    Here is an outside the box idea for director. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

  5. The problem I ran into was that I think I made everyone about five years too young. But Wasikowska would be great for that age.

    Cazale was 45 was for Deer Hunter, and that is how old Ruffalo is now. Krasinski and Novak would be interesting and would be around the same age as the rest of the cast. I actually considered Kraskinski for John.

    I like that thinking! Definitely would give it a cool flair.