Caffeinated Clint – That Bites


A chat with the writer of the “Piranha” remake

That Bites

Some films do deserve to be remade

Clint here,
checking in from a wireless laptop powered by a rustic coat-hanger and overused network card . And man, it’s hot. Hotter than Diane Lane in “Lady Beware”, hot.

I wanted to have a little chatskie about remakes. I hate ’em. You all know that, right? I think I’ve spewed enough on my dislike for the do-over in recent months. But today, I feel the need to ammend the statement – sometimes there is a place for a remake.

There’s not a lot of films I think need to be remade – “Escape from New York” being one; I watched the original again the other day and I must say, it holds up well and does not need a glitzy steep do-over, in my mind Kurt Russell will always be Snake Plissken – but “Piranha” could probably do with a touch-up.

Firstly, its not a film everyone’s seen, let alone remembers – the classics, I believe, should be left alone though I dare say within the next decade we’ll be seeing remakes of everything from “Back to the Future” to “Grease” and “Gremlins” – so to exploit the name is only creating awareness for the old film, as I see it. But more so, this was a film that needed some kick-ass special effects and back then, you just couldn’t do anything other than what you can cook up when you connect a Vic20 with a microwave. With some terrific effects, and a killer script, a remake of “Piranha” could be a good thing.

My buddy Josh Stolberg (“Good Luck Chuck”) and I caught up this week to chat about his plans for the film – which he’s writing with Peter Goldfinger. Josh tells me he never set out to write a remake of the Joe Dante-directed film, but simply pen a film that ‘swims’ (geddit?) in a similar sea.

“We wrote a spec script about, well, piranhas, and called it “Killer Fish”. We sent it to J Todd, who obviously put two and two together and snapped it up with an option. I knew the film would eventually get made, so even though we didn’t see money up front, we knew it would come back to us in dividends later.”

And now, of course, “It’s happening. An amazing director just took over.
Alexandre Aja. He directed “High Tension” (which is one of my favourite horror films in the past few years). He also did the first remake of “The Hills Have Eyes”. Alex and his writing partner are reworking the script a little and if all goes as planned, it could be shooting pre-strike.”

Stolberg’s main reason for writing the movie is so he can get his feet – or rather, typing fingers – wet in another genre other than comedy.

“It allowed me to write in the horror genre, something that producers don’t really know me for yet. And I thought our take on the material was fun and different. I know there are a lot of people out there who hate remakes (especially of classics, which the original Piranha was). But I thought, hell, if it’s going to happen anyway, why not throw our hat into the ring and see if we can’t make it better than expected.”

The original “Piranha”, released in 1978, told of a school of piranha’s that head into a river that surrounds a summer resort. Needless to say, some folks get eaten. The film was produced by another old friend of mine, Jon Davison (“Starship Troopers”, “Robocop”) – – would be interesting to get his thoughts on the remake.

I think what I’m trying to say here is that ‘if a film still holds up’ then it doesn’t deserve to be remade… that’s what I was getting at with my “Escape from New York” comment – that movie still rocks, and still holds up, so there’s no real reason for it to be getting a glossy clone.

I guess I can understand why films like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” , “The Italian Job”, “Sleuth”, “Death Race 2000” and “Ocean’s Eleven” deserve to be remade – for starters, they’re pretty old flicks now. And for the most part, they’re terribly dated. If Hollywood was restricted to only doing remakes over films over thirty years old… it might be better (then again… look what happened to “Psycho”!). To remake films like “Can’t Buy Me Love” (done a couple of years ago as “Love Don’t Cost a Thing”), “Near Dark” (coming up from Michael Bay’s crowd), “Shocker” (which Wes Craven is working on – it didn’t work first time around Wes!), “Halloween” (nobody liked it! how’s that hint?) and don’t even get me started on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”! If you must remake a classic…. make them different, make them their own thing… don’t just Xerox the original (we could all learn something from Martin Scorsese’s remake of “Infernal Affairs” or Adam Shankman’s remake of “Hairspray”) its both pointless and pilfy.

So yes, “Piranha” makes sense. It and about three of the four-hundred other remakes in the works.

Ok I’m out like a prettyboy film star with more than just skeletons in his closet.