Hollywood Shuffle — From 'Gloria' to 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?,' classic movies are being remade

November 22, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

When is a remake not a remake? Most of the time nowadays — as studios warm to projects that springboard off past hits and add in ’90s twists. This is called being faithful to ”the spirit” of a film, and lately the spirits are proving quite pliant. Romeo & Juliet leapt to MTV-style storytelling. What will moviemakers rethink of next?

Jackal Gets Tackled
Richard Gere and Bruce Willis (whose Last Man Standing machine-gunned the Kurosawa masterpiece Yojimbo) are filming a new The Day of the Jackal for Universal, but veteran director Fred Zinnemann isn’t thrilled, saying the changes made to his 1973 thriller represent ”a new standard of low behavior.” Based on the novel by Frederick Forsyth, Zinnemann’s movie tracked an assassin out to kill Charles de Gaulle; Willis targets a mere FBI director — and instead of a cat-and-mouse game, it’s litter-and-mouse, as IRA operative Gere, G-man Sidney Poitier, and Russian cop Diane Venora team up to thwart him. Zinnemann is lobbying for a title change (though studio sources say they paid six figures to secure it). Producer Sean Daniel concedes only, ”The title has never been set in stone.”

Hope for Gloria
Gena Rowlands is back on Hollywood’s radar due to her lauded role in Unhook the Stars, now in a brief Oscar-qualifying run before reopening Feb. 14. But Sharon Stone, who remade Diabolique last spring, had already locked on to Gloria, the 1980 John Cassavetes film that earned Rowlands an Oscar nomination as an ex-moll protecting a boy marked for death. ”Cassavetes was a genius at exploring the interior of a character,” says writer Steve Antin. ”We’ve added more of a three-act structure: We’ve pumped up the action, raised the stakes all the way around.”

Jane Lands a Hook
”We’re keeping the soul of it, but getting rid of the clothing,” says producer Don Safran of the proposed Fox remake of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? In place of the has-been movie stars played by Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in the 1962 original, screenwriter Alexandra Seros (The Specialist) has imagined battling boxers — brothers in their 30s — one of whom has taken a few too many punches. The overhaul, as yet untitled, is fine with William Aldrich, son of the late Baby Jane director Robert Aldrich, who himself mounted a 1991 television remake starring real-life heavyweight sisters Lynn and Vanessa Redgrave.

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