Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Or it may never have been at all. The “it,” of course, refers to Lars von Trier’s rumored remake of Taxi Driver, which had the media abuzz for nearly a spin around the sun. Often, the very mention of the word “remake” with a beloved title leads to a feisty chorus of “ohs” and “whys,” from The Seven Samurai to the more recent Let the Right One In . But with von Trier’s brilliant but checkered past (hit-miss-hit) and Martin Scorsese’s notorious “hero,” there was definitely promise for a must-see redo.
In that what-if spirit, here’s a list of other American classics and the directors we think could make them their own. Leave your own scenarios in the comments.
Just think of all the actors who could line up in this Sam Peckinpah update. Let’s just use his last, oh, five movies to fill in the blanks: Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Will Smith, Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp, Christian Bale. Plus, Mann remains a superlative handler of gunfights and boxed-in men (Heat anyone?), and The Wild Bunch remains the best of that sort of fallen machismo.
Back in his day, Frank Capra was America’s leading director for feel-good comedies, his aw-shucks heroes toeing, but not quite falling into, the mawkish. Apatow introduced the raunch into the formula of the good-guy misfit and reigns as today’s comedy supremo. For all its cheer, It’s a Wonderful Life retains a particularly dark undercurrent — quitting this life when down-and-out — and Apatow has been mining the uneasy (mid-life virginity, unplanned pregnancy, even cancer) for laughs and pathos his entire career.
Mike Nichols’ classic might not have pioneered the use of an artist-scored pop soundtrack, but it’s one of those seminal cases. Many of Wes Anderson’s characters, from Max Fischer to the Tenenbaums, have ties to Dustin Hoffman’s college grad without a compass (whether moral or directional). The swimming pool reveries of The Graduate couldn’t be more primed for the Anderson touch.
Altman is a saint for Paul Thomas Anderson, one of those in-the-time-of-need inspirations. But the ensemble roulettes for which Altman was rightly lauded, like Nashville and Short Cuts, are much too close to Anderson’s current M.O. 3 Women would be a welcome departure and a fascinating, small-scale foray into the world of femmes and the surreal after a mostly epic, male-focused oeuvre.
With his gift for quotable gab, QT refreshing the bonhomie of Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo would be an excellent choice (it’s one of his favorites after all). But better than that would be the famed cinephile’s take on John Ford’s masterpiece The Searchers. You can see its influence (as well as Leone’s) in the intro sequence for Inglourious Basterds, when Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) gets all shadowy in the doorway a la John Wayne. And it’ll murk up those cameos in such neo-Westerns as Sukiyaki Western Django and From Dusk to Dawn.