Thursday, March 5, 2009

Casablanca for the 21st Century

In these troubled economic times, we could spend time worrying about how to fix the economy, or we could do something infinitely more pointless and fun. I choose the latter.

My favourite movie of all time is Casablanca. Yeah The Godfather, The Great Escape, Some Like it Hot, Chinatown, It’s Wonderful Life and North By Northwest are great watching. But when it comes to 2 hours of pure cinema joy give me Bogie and Bergman smouldering and simmering, Claude Raines rounding up the usual suspects, Peter Lorre screaming “Rick! Help me!” and a cafe full of patriots singing “La Marseilles” and you’ll find me a happy man.

Could they do it now? Of course they could – yes the cast is great (ok it is the greatest cast of all time in any film) but I’m sure we can find a few actors treading the boards at the minute who could give it a whirl. Let’s find out.


Bogart5a Geez how do replace Bogie? Now the obvious man would be George Clooney, after all George is as suave as they get these days, and certainly would look good in the white tux. But I have to say I think Bogie is a better actor than George, and I also like to think of George as more this generation’s Cary Grant (he does comedy better than Bogie), so I’ll leave him for when I recast North By Northwest (which apparently I will now be doing…).

So who gets it? Well he has to be a bit gruff, able to make a women fall in love with him, and also look like he could have a past.

I’m going with Clive Owen.t_70leks8n


Bergman2Oh boy. Why would anyone want to replace Ingrid Bergman? Ok let’s try…

Now she was only 27 at the time. So that would rule out Cate Blanchett who is 40 – remember Ilsa is swept off her feet in love with Laszlo when she first arrives in Paris, before then falling in love with Rick, so I don’t think she can be too mature a woman. Keira Knightley is the right age – perhaps a bit too young. But besides I can’t see her doing the role justice (plus I don’t know if she could do the accent) – ditto Anne Hathaway (and besides we need a blonde).

I think going for a European actress is the way to go. Andre Tautou is excellent, but again doesn’t convince… I would go with Franka Potente who was so good in The Bourne Identity, but for European sexuality you can’t go past Ludivine Sagnier. Anyone who has seen Swimming Pool knows what I’m talking about. And she can act as well. But I’m not sure - she is more dangerous sexuality than ethereal beauty. Geez – this is a tough one. Ok, let’s go more mainstream. I choose between either Scarlett Johansson or Charlize Theron. Johanssan is the better age, but Theron is the better actor… oh bugger it, I’m going with Johansson in the hope scarlett-johanssonthat Lost In Translation isn’t the only thing she can be good in (but geez I would have loved to have given it to Cate who would absolutely kill in the role).

Victor Laszlo:

Henreid5 A hugely important role – the guy has to be almost as suave as Rick, has to have the personality to lead a movement, and has to be handsome enough that you believe Ilsa would actually get on the plane with him at the end. He also has to be able to play European. Paul Henried was absolutely perfect for this role. And for the 2009 version? There can be only one actor who can do it – Ralph Fiennes:



OK this one is the easiest choice. In the original it was played by the brilliant Peter Lorre.Lorre5a He plays a weasel, a leech, but also in a short period is able to get the audience’s sympathy – especially when Rick refuses to help him. Let’s be honest, there’s one actor perfectly matched for the role – heck in Miller’s Crossing and Reservoir Dogs he practically played characters that could have been written for Lorre. I’m talking Steve Buscemi:Steve_Buscemi_890774 Heck they almost look the same.

Captain Renault:

A pivotal role – he has to be a bit of a rogue, and swindler, but also absolutely loveable. The film doesn’t work if we aren’t happy that Rick and he walk off at the end beginning their beautiful friendship. Rains3 Claude Raines was a great actor, and I think his mantle has been taken over well and truly in the 1990s and 200s by the great Australian character actor Geoffrey Rush:

Geoffrey_Rush-1 Rush would chew this role up. “I’m only a poor corrupt official” “How extravagant you are, throwing away women like that. Some day they may be scarce”… yep Rush would deliver these lines with just the right amount of wit. And him and Clive Owen together at the end? I’m thinking yes.


The role of the fat cafe owner-competitor of Rick’s was played by the wonderful stage actor, Sydney Greenstreet.Greenstreet6 It is a small role (one that really could have done with a bit of beefing up. Such a minor part really wouldn’t demand anyone too good, but I’m picking the excellent Phillip Seymour Hoffmann.Philip-Seymour-Hoffman The main reason for my choosing him is that it would also let me choose him to play the Greenstreet role in my remake of The Maltese Falcon! (yep, add that one to the list…)

Major Strasser:

Every good film needs a bad guy, Veidt6a and Conrad Veidt played a very good one. Again the role is small, but pivotal – you have to think he will do Laszlo harm, and you have to think he epitomises the evils of the Third Reich. So we need someone sinister? Someone who is good at playing a supporting role if required? Come on down John Malkovich: tn2_john_malkovich_1

So there it is, all that is missing is the role of Sam the piano player, played in the original by Dooley Wilson. I have to say I have no idea who to pick for that role – it is such an arcane role that I can’t any black actor doing it so I’m going to go with a white guy – more like Hoagy Carmichael’s role in To Have and Have Not. So we need someone who can sing, and be a bit of a light comedy relief. Jack Black, you’re due on set:The_Holiday-2-Jack_Black

So what do you think?

Great cast, the script will be great, get a good director like Christopher Nolan (after all the original Michael Curtiz had done a lot of action films before this) and surely you got a hit!

Well maybe not – half of me would be cringing at the travesty of the whole enterprise. But I’m loving this cast, so how about someone writing a new script for them to do, or failing that let’s slap the DVD in the player and settle back and enjoy our old friends Bogie, Bergman, Henried and Raines playing it again, just for old time’s sake.

This has now been UPDATED.

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