Twice upon a time in the west

 

With True Gritset to clean up at the box office, the time could be right for a revival of the western – but which films should be remade and who should star in them? JOE GRIFFINgoes prospecting for gold

WITHIN A few weeks of release, the Coen Brothers’ remake of True Gritcomfortably surpassed the magic number ($100 million in the US alone), making it the biggest western since Dances with Wolves. As Gladiator proved, it only takes one smash hit to revive a genre, so how would other remakes of western classics fare in today’s market? Who would star and direct?

CALAMITY JANE

Musicals, especially innocent ones like Calamity Jane, are pretty thin on the ground these days, so there aren’t many actresses who could fill in for Doris Day. Anne Hathaway would work. She can sing, and butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth (she still seems innocent, no matter how many times she appears nude in film). And who better to play Wild Bill than the middle-aged, roguish, gorgeous George Clooney? Baz Luhrmann, probably the only visionary director today who makes musicals, could take the reigns.

LITTLE BIG MAN

Possibly this writer’s favourite of the genre, it followed Dustin Hoffman as he became numerous western archetypes (gunslinger, Indian, drunk, snake-oil salesman and soldier) and watched the birth of a nation and genocide of a people. James Franco (slight, handsome, credible) could play the lead, and Ridley Scott (blustering, stylish, ambitious) could direct. And how about those famous supporting roles? Mrs Pendrake, a Christian turned brothel madam (originally played by Faye Dunaway), could be portrayed by the glamorous-but-versatile Charlize Theron, and Brad Pitt could play the charming, dangerous celebrity, General Custer.

YOUNG GUNS

This is the most frivolous western on the list, so a remake won’t get purists reaching for their six-shooters. Young bucks Ryan Gosling, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (as Billy the Kid) and Adam Beach (the Native American actor from Flags of our Fathers) are at least as talented as the original stars Kiefer Sutherland, Emilio Estevez and Lou Diamond Phillips, and hot Russian film- maker Timur Bekmambetov (the style-over-substance director of Wanted) could oversee things. To really get the kids interested, Kings of Leon could cover Jon Bon Jovi’s Young Guns IItheme, Blaze of Glory.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

Viggo Mortenson, Javier Bardem and Stephen Graham (guess which is which!) could star. The memorable characters and setting would be the perfect opportunity to create some new action scenes and Mexican stand-offs. As the recent The Good, The Bad, The Weirdshowed, there’s life in the premise yet. This could be made by John Woo – master of the stand-off, the natural heir to Sergio Leone, and fresh from the success of his best film in years, Red Cliff.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST

A stone-cold classic, this would need a conventional hero to take over from Charles Bronson, a movie-star cast against type (as Henry Fonda was) for the villain, an actor with the scruffy gravitas of Jason Robards and an enigmatic female lead. Well, Hugh Jackman would look good in a cowboy hat, Bruce Willis could take over from Fonda, the weather-beaten Daniel Craig could look just as scruffy as Jason Robards and Monica Bellucci could fill Claudia Cardinale’s (ahem) shoes. Mel Gibson’s Apocalyptoshowed that he could make thrilling, end-of-an-era epics, so why not hand him the director’s chair?

THE SEARCHERS

I know – possibly the most sacred of all, but why stop at True Grit? The gruff, iconic Harrison Ford would be ideal in the John Wayne role for this epic, morally thorny tale of a long search for a missing young woman. Picture it: you can almost hear Ford grumbling “that’ll be the day” out of the side of his mouth. And David Fincher ( Fight Club, Se7en), who jumps between genres and is male angst-obsessed, could direct. Elle Fanning ( Somewhere) could take over from Natalie Wood, Naomi Watts could take over from Vera Miles and as Martin (Jeffrey Hunter) I’d pick the pretty but steely young actor Chris Pine.

BLAZING SADDLES

Let’s not forget comedic cowboys (though we draw the line at The Three Amigos). Mel Brooks’s spoof still has a bite more than three decades after its initial release. Edgar Wright ( Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim) can stage comedy with pizzazz, and the Gene Wilder role of a ne’er-do-well would suit Wright regular Simon Pegg. Throw in Mos Def as the naive black sheriff, Nick Frost as the governor and Amy Poelher as Lili Von Shtupp (I’d love to hear her singing in a deep German voice) and you’ve got yourself a movie.

* True Gritopens next Friday