There is one thing every tried and true movie buff loves to do. (Aside from arguing over which movie is better as if the fate of the free world depended on it.) We love recasting movies. It’s our fantasy football. (I think. I have no earthly idea how fantasy football works but this sounds good.)
Sometimes after watching a cult classic, or a mediocre movie with potential that falls short; someone will inevitably suggest, “They should remake that for today.”
“What?!” Someone will reply. Their voice filled with incredulity.
“Yeah. They should get Naya Rivera to play so and so. I think it could work.”
“Jeremiah, Naya Rivera is your answer for everything.”
“Fuck yeah, she is.”
Since time immemorial the one unifying hobby of any film lover has always been fantasy recasting. It’s what we do. It’s how we flex our movie-loving muscle.
With that in mind, I decided what better balm to these uncertain times than making a list of five remakes I would like to see? I’ll suggest a new cast, and state my case for why I think it should remade.
The Last Starfighter
Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) is a teenager stuck in a dead end life as he mopes around his trailer park. The only real joy in his life is playing the local arcade game “Starfighter.” Alex is so good at it; he becomes the game’s highest scoring player ever.
Of course, we soon find out the game “Starfighter” is actually a recruitment tool set up by Centauri (Robert Preston) to help him recruit fighters to defend the Frontier against Kur and the evil Ko-Dan Armada. Alex turns out to be a natural, and so becomes the hero of the galaxy.
At first glance, the original is everything that is wrong with Hollywood today. A young, downtrodden, heterosexual white male, is chosen by the powers that be to be a savior of the Universe. Yawn. Seen it all before. I hear ya.
But I think The Last Starfighter would be an incredible remake. And I’m not just saying that because with modern day special effects it would be jaw dropping. With today’s technology and the money thrown at films, special effects are only noteworthy if they are bad.
No, the story would be better served by a remake. Audiences have a much better and more knowledgeable relationship to games than they did in the 80’s. Also, the idea of a commoner rising up to be the defender of the kingdom/galaxy/multiverse is a tale as old as time.
The class issue alone; Alex living in a trailer park dreaming of bigger and better things. This could hit a real narrative nerve with the audience. Hollywood has a way of painting lower class existence both as some Tom Joad hellscape or treating it like it’s just a word and it doesn’t mean anything. In reality being poor means a lot of different things.
People who live in trailer parks existence are often marginalized by mainstream media. They overlook how such places often become little communities unto themselves. So I think having a hero from this setting would connect more so than if the hero lived in the basement of their parent’s house.
The New Cast:
But who to play Alex? Well for sure you want to sidestep the white bread possibilities. I humbly suggest Gina Rodriguez. She would be amazing. Come on. Are you telling me hearing Gina Rodriguez laugh as she executes the perfect death blossom wouldn’t be the highlight of your movie going year? Seriously?
Plus I think Rodriguez has an every person quality to her; while also being able to carry herself with grace and confidence. Considering the writer Jonathan Betul said he was inspired by T.H. White’s Once And Future King; I can’t see how you can’t picture Rodriguez. A latina from a trailer park becoming the equivalent of King Arthur of the galaxy? This movie would break box office mojo; as well as internet trolls across the web.
But who to play Centauri? Robert Preston was a legendary Broadway actor. He is forever linked to his role as Professor Harold Hill from the Music Man. So who could we get to replace one of the ultimate charming, smooth, fast talking, loveable rogue?
We need a legend in our own time. That’s why I suggest Laverne Cox. Who else could be the galactical mentor to Alex? Who else could have the unnerving eye for new talent to defend the Frontier?
I love Laverne Cox both for her social activism and for her screen presence. I think she has an innate charm to her. Centauri is at once both a sincere believer in the cause while also never shy about getting what he is owed. It would be nice to see someone like Cox play a mentor character.
As for the love interest, frankly, I don’t think you need one. The role of Maggie is a thankless one. Although Catherine Mary Stewart does her best with what she’s given. But if you wanted to, since we’ve already flipped the genders, we could make Maggie into Alex’s boyfriend. Have him played by Hayden Szeto from Edge of Seventeen. He’s likable and it’d be good to see the man be the one trying to decide between life on Earth or life by the Hero’s side on a Starship as they defend the galaxy.
Or if you wanted to really push the envelope, keep Maggie a woman. Make it a lesbian/bi love for the ages and have Maggie played by Katie McGrath. She’s already the queen of many young lesbians/bi women. So why not make her the metaphorical Queen to sit next to Alex.
Or just do like I suggested at the beginning and just scrape the whole love angle altogether. It’s there mainly because my fellow heterosexuals seem incapable of conceiving a story where there isn’t some kind of romantic pairing of some sort. You could replace it with having Alex ask her family to come with her. Which I think would play more to audiences and help illustrate the themes of alienation and class issues.
Back To The Future
Yeah. I’m going there. Deal with it.
Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is your typical teenage boy from 1985. Like most teenage boys, he just wants to hang out with his girlfriend Jennifer (Claudia Wells) and his best friend, middle-aged mad scientist Doc (Christopher Lloyd). The movie follows young Marty as he travels back in time to 1955 after nearly escaping a Libyan firing squad. Soon he realizes he’s no longer in 1985, he’s in 1955! He immediately realizes the only person who can get him home is his best friend, Doc.
Hijinks ensue as Marty accidentally interferes with his parent’s meet cute, thus having one with his own Mother (Lea Thompson) instead. Now Marty has to sidestep his amorous and determined Mom, make her fall in love with his Dad (Crispin Glover), help Doc rebuild the time machine, avoid Biff (Tom Wilson) the town bully, and get home, before he vanishes from existence. All he needs is 1.21 gigawatts of power. What could go wrong?
Of all the films on this list, this might be the most contentious. The movie is damn near perfect. It’s a pristine act of 1980’s cinema and its entire legacy hinges on the fact it remains untouched. The two sequels after it don’t count. I guess. I don’t know.
All I know is that you could easily remake Back To The Future. The story still holds today, now more than ever. During the most recent election, there wasn’t just a class divide, there was a generational divide as well. All of the effusive praise and fan worshiping of Back To The Future, the fact that it’s a story about a kid who discovers his parents are three-dimensional people often gets overlooked.
What Marty finds, isn’t himself, it’s that his parents had hopes and dreams that had nothing to do with him or his siblings. They had and have a whole other life without him. Basically, Marty realizes the world doesn’t revolve around him, except it does for two more movies, but I digress.
Back to the recent election. You read the articles and what you can see, besides profound disagreement about the role of government and the size of it, is how people of a certain generation feel left behind by the other. Back To The Future is an excellent chance to explore how people change both for good and bad.
Plus you could switch up the decades. Have set in present day and have Marty travel back to 1986, where his parents are young adults. Confidence in government is at a crossroads, a seemingly never ending war, protests are common, international crises are on the rise, and a rising anger toward big business.
Plus it’s just fun. I mean just unreasonably fun. Even Marty’s near erasure from existence is never handled as anything but a wacky mistake that must be fixed. The world needs a little fun right now.
Not to seem too predictable but I’m about to race flip/gender flip Marty McFly on you. Switch Marty to Marti and cast Kylie Bunbury. Who? The lead from Pitch? Yes. The show’s more miss than hit, but she’s great.
Bunbury would shine as the average, modern day young woman thrown back in time. Pitch is such an uneven show on all fronts but the one steady constant is Bunbury. She would kill it as Marti. I don’t have a well-reasoned argument for this, I just fucking love the idea of her as Marti.
Doc is obvious. Doc should be played by Keegan-Michael Key. He has clear dramatic and comedic chops. Both are necessary for the portrayal of the most well known mad scientist of our time. He could bring the manic energy to the role as well as land the more nuanced humor that exists in the dialogue.
But who to play Marty’s “The thirst Is Real” Mom/Lorraine? Easy. Hayley Atwell. Atwell has more than proven herself of being game for anything. She can do bad ass hero, she can do broad comedy, and she can give smoldering eye sex with the best of them. Plus the gender flip of Marti would allow you to play bisexuality, not as joke, but as a norm. Marti has no problem with her Mom being bi, she has a problem with her Mom coming onto her.
George McFly is a tough one. My vote is Anthony Anderson. Never mind the ways you could subvert societal expectations of Black hyper-masculinity, the dude is just funny. He has a tendency to go a little too broad sometimes, but with the right director, I think he could turn in a performance every bit as idiosyncratic as Crispin Glover.
I’m not going into Biff and the others, suffice to say you could have a field day with that one character casting alone. With what we have right now, though, I think we have a solid cast that could give a smart, fun, generational exploration of modern American life mixed with a whip-smart time travel adventure.
A drifter, Nada (Roddy Piper) wanders into town and stumbles into a secret resistance against our Alien Overlords. The problem is the aliens look like you and me; they look human. There’s only one way to spot them, to see them for who they really are. You need Ray-Ban sunglasses.
Nada and his partner Frank (Keith David) must join together, and the resistance, and bring down our intergalactic oppressors. To reveal to the world the hidden messages in our advertising that keep us bound like so much chattel. You have to wear the glasses to understand.
Of all the John Carpenter movies they’ve remade over the past few years, the most baffling omission is They Live. A low budget sci-fi masterpiece about America’s mindless slavishness to Crony Capitalism. Seriously, a dude puts on sunglasses and sees that everyone else is being brainwashed. Only he can see the truth.
It’s a story ripe for the internet age. Hell, it epitomizes the internet age. One lone truth teller amongst a crowd of sheeple. If only they would put on the sunglasses and see the truth?! In today’s divided time it unites all in one unifying message, “The other side is clearly brainwashed.”
They Live is just so weird and over the top in a low-key kind of way. Plus the whole “We’re being ruled by a literal alien infested Illuminati” is straight out of an Alex Jones rant. There’s even a beautiful five-minute fight scene between Nada and Frank. The fight is made all the more beautiful because of its sheer pointlessness. What are they fighting about? Frank won’t wear the glasses.
They Live maybe wouldn’t slay at the box office, but it would break whatever server would host the streaming.
The original had famed WWF wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper and Keith David as the two title characters trying in vain to get the world to see the light. But if we were to remake this we would need to keep the WWF (now WWE) connection. I’d say Dwayne Johnson, but he’s already involved in an actual remake of a John Carpenter film Big Trouble In Little China.
So I’m tossing John Cena’s name into the ring. Like Johnson, Cena has shown an uncanny ability in playing with his image. He has great comedic timing which usually leads to great dramatic timing. On top of that years as one of the top pro-wrestlers would give him a leg up on the camp source material as well as the epic five-minute long fight. The fight that the remake would surely try to outdo.
But who would Cena fight? Who could hold their own against John Cena in a fight? Who has the dulcet tones to do Keith David justice? Dave Bautista, that’s who. He’s already proven he can hang with big boys. Let him loose with Cena and just watch the trash talking fly.
It would be such a glorious, ridiculous, action-packed, nonsensical trip of a movie. Of all the films on this list, this one has the most snowball’s chance in hell of even being discussed somewhere with money.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Two con men Lawrence (Michael Caine) and Freddy (Steve Martin) meet and clash on the French Riviera. It’s class warfare all the way as the uptight snooty Lawrence tries to banish the boorish and small time grifting Freddy from his territory.
After Lawrence takes Freddy under his wing and tries to class him up a bit, Freddy refuses to leave. So they make a wager, whoever can con fifty thousand dollars first from Janet (Glenne Headly) wins. The loser has to leave the Riviera for good.
Frank Oz’s comedy classic is ripe for a re-make. If for no other reason than the original isn’t that great. It’s an okay comedy, but with a movie starring Michael Caine AND Steve Martin, it should be better.
It’s a middling movie with a great idea that’s hampered by its lackluster script but heightened by its stars. This includes the now forgotten Glenne Headly. She holds her own against the heavyweights of Caine and Martin; mainly because she was a heavyweight herself.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels has the potential to be some mad cross between Mamet and Moliere. In the right hands, it could be a wonderful, witty subversion of the snobs versus the slobs. Especially with the twist at the end that neatly and slyly plays with the audience’s internalized misogyny.
For the high class, debonair, suave elitist Lawrence I think the only reasonable choice has to be Idris Elba. Elba has a raw magnetism that I think would lead a simmering undercurrent of sex that was lacking for Caine. With the right screenwriter, they could even play with preconceptions of race and class. For me, it’s the fact I can easily picture Elba dropping caustic bon mots while he calmly ushers Freddy out the door.
Which brings us to Freddy. Honestly, if I’m pressed to come up with a modern day Steve Martin I have to say Kate McKinnon. She could play low-class sleazeball with an eye for an easy twenty bucks with ease. She can do broad, and she can do nuanced.
Not to mention the casting of McKinnon means you could, if you were so inclined (read: had the guts), have some queer representation. It was hinted at in Ghostbusters, but here it could actually be relevant to the plot.
Plus the “Ruprick” scene between Elba and McKinnon would be stellar. I think these two would raise the right script to a whole new level. Their back and forth mixed with McKinnon’s readiness to go the extra awkward mile would make their scenes together worth the price of admission alone.
But who to complete the trio? Who could we get to play the ditzy, pure-hearted wealthy mark of Janet Colegate? Melissa Benoist of course. Benoist has the sunshine disposition of a basket of puppies. No matter if you’ve seen her on Glee or Supergirl, you know she could play the flustered easily awed fish-out-of-water as good as anyone working today.
Come on. Who here wouldn’t pay good money to see Idris Elba and Kate McKinnon try and woo Melissa Benoist in a comedy of ill manners? Not to mention, again, bisexuality portrayed as a norm, and not as an excuse for heterosexual titillation without queer context or consequences. Hollywood give me this damn movie!
The plot to Police Academy is simple. The newly elected mayor lowers the standards for enrolling in the police academy so that anyone can become a police officer. Cue a hodgepodge of misfits and their hilarious, wacky hijinks.
Understand Police Academy is a movie from my childhood. I adore Police Academy. It’s not a favorite movie of mine, but sometimes, I think it might be. First, it has one of the best theme songs, period. Second, the end credits song is one of the best from the 80’s. It’s up there with The Breakfast Club and Harry and the Hendersons.
Police Academy could be remade today so easily it’s baffling no one has done it. For the most part, vulgar broad comedies are the domain for the heterosexual white male. Oh sure we’re making inroads here and there. We have our Bridesmaids and Fridays. But we don’t have many cross culture, the gang’s all there, slapstick comedies.
The characters in Police Academy range from smarmy rabble rousers, picked on salespeople, slightly unhinged firearms enthusiasts, uptight dick bags, or just regular people who think they can contribute. All races, all genders, all types.
One of the many charms of these characters, as Cracked pointed out in an After Hours video, is that they are the rare movie cops who are legitimately good at their job. The recruits manage to both accidentally start a riot and stop the riot all without firing a single gunshot; much to the dismay of some. And it’s not sheer luck. There have been seven sequels, and in all of them, they get the job done. Also, it’s not just one or two cops, it’s the whole gang. Everybody plays a role in the success.
In today’s climate of individualism mixed with the yearning for some type of safe group space, Police Academy would mine some serious untapped potential. Of course, it has some problems with some sexism and it’s portrayals of gay bars are less than accurate; it’s the 80’s folks. We had some issues then as we do now.
There’s no reason why we can’t make up for that with the remake. But how?
We gender/race/queer flip the main character of Officer Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg). Mahoney is a smooth rebellious anti-authoritarian figure.Then and now, Mahoney is the type of character that could easily be annoying. This is due mainly to the privilege Mahoney enjoys as a heterosexual white male character.
So this is what we do. We get Naya. Fucking. Rivera. Yeah, I know, I’m a mad genius. By taking Mahoney and making her a queer woman of color we now have a true rebel. When she acts out, it’s more satisfying because she has something to act out against. Her middle finger to the status quo would be all the more satisfying and entertaining because it’s earned.
Rivera would nail this role so hard you could call it Brittany S. Pierce. She’s suave. Check. She’s charismatic. Check. She’s got the swagger. Fucking check. Of all the things I’ve typed, ever, I want this more than most things.
Swipe out Guttenberg’s cut off t-shirt of “One In the Oven” with a cut off t-shirt that says “Half Man, Half Horse” for Rivera and you’ve got yourself the first laugh of the trailer. If she can walk the Ryan Murphy tightrope, she could do this role in her sleep.
There is a love interest for Mahoney, Officer Thompson (Kim Cattrall). Well more like a sexual interest. It’s a vulgar comedy after all. For the remake, I’d beef up her character some more. In the original, she’s there mainly for Mahoney. For our sake, we’ll get Nicole Beharie and flesh out her character.
Have Officer Thompson sign up for the Academy to show her sexist backward father that women can be just as good as men in the police force. This is a contrast to Mahoney who’s only there to avoid jail time. I think the two would play off each other nicely in a sort of screwball give and take.
But I digress. I’m not writing the movie; I’m casting it. But the cast is so large, that I’m going to have to focus on the majors.
For Commandant Lassard (George Gaynes) the lovable, if somewhat dimwitted, leader of the Academy, you have to go with June Squibb. She’s like an older version of Judy Greer. Why is no one casting her!?
Speaking of Greer, oh yes, you read that right, I’m about to cast Judy Greer; as the villain. Lt. Harris (G.W. Bailey). The uptight prig who wants nothing more to rid all of these miscreants and sub-par cadets out of her precious Academy. It’s against the type of role she frequently gets cast as, and I think she would demolish it.
As Officer Larville Jones (Michael Winslow) you get Jordan Peele. I have every confidence in the world that Peele could step into the bizarre sound effects-obsessed Jones, no problem. Plus it would be nice to see a platonic relationship between the sexes in a bawdy hijinks movie.
Lastly, Sgt. Callahan (Leslie Easterbrook).The hard-nosed, stern taskmaster, perfectionist, blonde bombshell that terrifies and arouses most of the cadets. This role is tricky. Cast it wrong, and you run the risk of making Callahan nothing but a tired trope of objectification. Cast it right, like say get Leslie Jones, and you show there’s more than one kind of sexy.
And that’s that. I don’t have anything else in me. I’m all tapped out. Whine about remakes all you want, but they’re as old as Hollywood itself. They’re not going anywhere. All you can do is hope they do one right every once and awhile.