James Toback, whose first produced screenplay was the semi autobiographical 1974 drama The Gambler, has unloaded a fury of annoyance in a rant to Deadline over the weekend about how it would have been the classy thing to do if Paramount Pictures, Martin Scorsese, William Monahan or Leonardo DiCaprio had bothered to give him a call to let him know they were developing a remake.
Not even the original producers Irwin Winkler and Bob Chartoff who are still kicking around and are now working on the remake got in touch with Toback and it was up to his friend Brett Ratner (the director he is currently writing a biopic of James DeLorean for) to let him know the story was all over the internet.
And of course he’s right. Sure Paramount owns the screenplay, they paid for it long ago and can do the hell they want with it but imagine this. You are a rookie writer just breaking in to the industry and are desperately looking for something to write about. You birth an idea for a movie tomorrow that will be deeply personal and based on much of your own experiences and certainly it has your heart and soul written all over it. You spend the next few years writing it and then the joy of actually selling the script and getting a studio to make it, with James Caan no less, and you career is kick-started…. only for thirty seven years down the line for some major Hollywood players who really should know better to take your screenplay and put their claws all over it without even bothering to give you a call. It’s like somebody else taking custody of your children.
Sure they can do it (and have) but would it have killed them to pick up the phone? The situation reminds me of when Joss Whedon, the creator of every inch of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, read over the internet Warner Bros were looking to remake his original film without his involvement, despite Joss making Buffy into everything it is. Classy, right?
So Toback has wrote an epic rant about the situation to Deadline who broke the remake story but in truth, although you can feel much anger there, it’s actually more a nostalgia entry and a fascinating historical piece of what it must have been like in the 70′s as a writer trying to get your first script made. Plus Toback candidly talks about the leads they never got for the movie including a then young Robert De Niro (who Toback is still bitter he couldn’t convince director Karel Reisz to cast), Warren Beatty, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Redford.
I’ve stolen the bits relating to the remake below but you really should take a look at the whole thing in it’s entirety as it’s a fascinating read;
Close to 3 AM on this past Friday I got my daily call from my friend and LA housemate, Brett Ratner. I was at my desk working on my 22nd revision of the John DeLorean script I was hired by Reliance and Ratner to write with Ratner directing and the legendary Bob Evans producing.
“What are you doing?” Brett asked.
“What do you think?” I said. “This is by far the toughest script to get right of any I’ve written in 35 years.”
“What about THE GAMBLER?”
“That was lightening fast and easy,” I said. “Of course, it was my own story.”
“That’s not what I meant,” he said. “Did you read Nikki Finke?”
“Always,” I said.
“What are you getting at?” I asked.
“She just reported that DiCaprio and Scorcese are remaking THE GAMBLER at Paramount.”
“Not my GAMBLER!” I said. “That’s not possible! No one said a word to me!”
“Who owns it?” Ratner asked.
“I guess they didn’t have to.”
“Legally, I guess you’re right,” I said.
“Maybe that’s all anyone gives a fuck about: whether something is legal.”
So learning of the plan to “remake” my movie at the same time and in the same fashion as any other devoted reader of this esteemed column, I suppose I should feel… what? That a tribute is being paid to a creation I left behind? I suppose. But one doesn’t always feel what one is supposed to feel.
As the late, great Jackie Wilson sang:
Just a kiss
Just a smile
Call my name
Just once in a while
And I’ll be satisfied.
Rudeness, on the other hand, and disrespect yield their own unanticipated consequences.
And something we hugely support (especially as I’ve never been able to actually see the movie!);
A footnote: Now that such an esteemed bunch of luminaries seems so inspired by The Gambler that they are contemplating the devotion of masses amounts of time, money and energy to redoing it, perhaps the home video crew at Paramount will consider making The Gambler available on DVD and Blu-Ray which it presently isn’t. And perhaps by On-Demand as well — if it isn’t there already. They can look it up and find out if they have the time.