Roberts and Clooney on the cover of the December, 2001 EsquireA favorite parlor game - at least among movie geeks - is the fantasy remake. That's when you daydream aloud with friends about who you would cast in a remake. I've been playing this game for years and thought it might make a playful recurring feature on this blog.
Case in point: "Born Free," first made in 1966 by director James Hill and released by Columbia Pictures
Nearly everyone knows the story. Based on the book by Joy Adamson, the film chronicled how Adamson and her husband, George, a game warden in Kenya, save, adopt and raise a lion cub who they name Elsa.
As Elsa nears maturity and yearns for freedom, the Adamsons have a tough decision to make - releasing Elsa back into the wild, even though she has come to depend on them and love them. More to the point, they've come to depend on and love her.
The decision to re-educate Elsa so that she can survive the wild is a painful one - and one that has touched just about everyone, but especially children and animal lovers, for years. The material also makes even animal lovers complicit in the incarceration/captivity, however thoughtful, of creatures that were born free - and deserve to be free.
"Born Free" screams out to be remade - a big remake, one positioned during the family-friendly Christmas holiday season.
The topping would be my cast.
In the '66 film, the real-life husband-and-wife team, Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, played the Adamsons. My cast? Drum roll, please.
Julia Roberts and George Clooney.
Well, first, they work well together and would be extemely effective, both together and individually, in these roles.
Secondly, Roberts loves animals, as evidenced by her poignant turns on two episodes of the "Nature" TV series - "From Orphan to King" (2005) and "Wild Horses of Mongolia with Julia Roberts" (2000). Her feelings for animals in these episodes are downright palpable.
So, a remake of "Born Free" would not only satisfy Roberts' affection for animals, but would also put her in a hugely commercial story for family audiences, opposite a close friend and one of her favorite leading men.
Boffo, baby, boffo.