It’s the same old story: boy meets girl. Boy stabs girl to death in a hotel shower. Boy turns into his dead mother. But what you might not know about Gus Van Sant’s much-anticipated scene-by-scene, shot-by-shot remake of Psycho is that it won’t be entirely faithful to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 original.
”I sort of think of it as a chef cooking from a recipe,” says the director. ”It’s the same ingredients, but different chefs will end up making slightly different-tasting dishes.”
For starters, Van Sant’s dish will be in color, not black and white. Some tweaks have also been made to update the script for modern times (the $40,000 Janet Leigh stole in the original is now $400,000). And, of course, there’s a whole new cast: Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates, Anne Heche as the doomed bathing beauty, Viggo Mortensen as her boyfriend, Julianne Moore as her sister, and William H. Macy as the detective.
Still, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Van Sant stuck to Hitchcock’s six-week filming schedule, kept the budget down (to about $25 million — not quite the $800,000 Hitchcock spent in 1960, but still pretty frugal), and has shrouded the project in Hitch-like secrecy (no screenings, no premiere party). About the only thing the Good Will Hunting director didn’t do was gain 75 pounds and shave his head — although he does make a cameo in the very same scene Hitchcock did.
”Studios are always remaking old movies, but they never really remake them,” says Van Sant. ”To me, the interesting thing wasn’t to remake an old movie but to replicate it, to re-create the original. That’s never been done before.”
Of course, there is one element of the original that Van Sant will be delighted not to re-create: The first Psycho got terrible reviews.