Tuesday, October 21, 2008

pesky question: "The Birds Redux"

Yeah, but who will be playing Suzanne Pleshette?

The remake of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" that Dave Kehr referred to on his blog several months ago is still active - unfortunately.

Yes, friends, Hollywood is still creatively bankrupt. Apparently, no one can think up original ideas anymore. And it's been asked before but here goes: If Hollywood is so bent on doing remakes, why doesn't it pursue older films that don't fully work, rather than those movies that do?
And why does the place always tackle the classics?

Anyway, checking out its status on IMDb, I learned that Naomi Watts is still the only star on board (in the Tippi Hedren role, natch) and that Martin Campbell is the latest director attached to it. Nothing on who will be playing the Rod Taylor, Suzanne Pleshette and Jessica Tandy roles, although I'm sure it doen't matter, given that the computer-generated avians will probably be the focus, getting preferential treatment.

But what caught my attention is that no fewer than six - count 'em - six writers are working on it. Six. The original needed only Evan Hunter. Six writers working on an adaptation of Daphne De Maurier's short story.

Why on earth would such miminalist material need six writers? Any one out there have any theories?

And wanna bet that De Maurier's short story will be barely recognizable?

Note in Passing: The original Hitchcock film airs on Turner Classics at 2 p.m. (est) on Sunday (October 26th).

(Artwork: The attack begins, Pleshette and Hendren in the original version of "The Birds," and Hedren in the throes of an attack)


jbryant said...

Well, of course it's not likely that the six are working together. Studios often do this round robin kinda thing. Writer A is hired, turns in a draft. It's okay, but not quite there. Bring on Writer B, who tightens up the story, but isn't great at dialogue. Writer C comes in to polish dialogue. Naomi Watts likes this draft, but wants more character stuff. Writer D, an in-demand script doctor, comes aboard. Naomi loves what he does, but now the balance seems off -- not enough action. Luckily, Writer E has a hole in his schedule and adds a big set piece with flocks of birds attacking the crowd a the Super Bowl halftime show. Eh, you get the idea.

Actually, we sometimes forget that a similar tag team approach was quite common in the old studio days. A 30s studio programmer might be credited thusly: Screenplay by Ty Pryter, screen story by S. Tory Teller, adaptation by Hugh Tryit, additional dialogue by Shmucky Underwood.

Studios have also been known to hire several writers to write versions of the same story independently, then pick the best or combine the supposed best elements of each version. Given all this, shouldn't all movies be masterpieces? :)

joe baltake said...


You bring up a great point, but there is a difference. The old moguls, most of them from Eastern Europe and all of them trying to better themselves, had a respect for the arts and and for intellectual thought, which was often reflected in their films.

They were not jaded movie brats like today's young moguls. Consequently, they often recruited the likes of Ben Hecht and F. Scott Fitzgerald to "class" things up, scenario-wise.

Granted, these writers probably thought that they were prostituting themselves. And, yes, even back then, audiences may have ended up with movies by committee - but these were classics by committee.

Today's young moguls have no respect for anything but the bottom line. Six writers on "The Birds" prove that. This is a piece that's as simplistic as film material can get.

These contemporary remakes do little more than show contempt for the original and make loads of money, as they are designed to do - enough money so that some other young mogul can hire another batch of anonymous writers to foul up - what? - "The Palm Beach Story."

Luckily, that's once classic that probably means nothing to the New Hollywood.

Nicole said...

Given Hollywood's penchant for revenge movies (even comedies seem to be about oneupsmanship), I wouldn't be surprised if Watts grabs a gun, Sarah Palin-style, and massacres all the birds. The yahoos would love it.

jbryant said...

Suggested lines for Naomi Watts if Nicole is correct about The Birds remake being a revenge scenario:

"Whipoorwill? Whipoor-won't!" BLAM!

"Cock-a-doodle-do, motherf**ker!" BLAM!

"You'll need those wings where you're going, tweetie." BLAM!

"Forgive me, father, for this 'cardinal' sin." BLAM!

"I've got a little message for your flock... FLOCK YOU!" BLAM!

Hey, maybe I can be the seventh writer on this thing.