Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Strangers on a Plane? Ben Affleck and David Fincher Take on Alfred Hitchcock's 'Strangers on a Train'


Right in the thick of this very big week in the world of Hollywoodland — we had the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, the Directors Guild of America nominations* came out Tuesday and the Oscar nominations are announced tomorrow — we learn Ben Affleck, David Fincher, and Gillian Flynn are re-teaming on another project. A remake of Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train based on the Patricia Highsmith thriller.

Does Fincher mind that he's not among the award nominees? Highly doubtful. He's too busy making the dark and delicious movies he loves to make his way, and making money while he's at it. Gone Girl, now out on BluRay and DVD and which cost $60 million to make, has taken in about $350 million to date so the director will no doubt receive not only his asking price but likely his demands for control of the movie's promotional materials.


The adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's first novel was made quite famous when Alfred Hitchcock filmed his version of the story in 1951. While she was reportedly paid just $7500 for the movie rights, the fact that Hitchcock optioned her novel vaulted her into the limelight; Stranger on a Train was just the first of her many crime novels, several of which have been adapted for the screen including The Talented Mr. Ripley, this year's The Two Faces of January and the upcoming Carol (The Price of Salt) as well as The Blunderer. Jacqueline Bisset starred in a tv movie adaptation of Strangers on a Train called Once You Meet A Stranger in 1996.

Hitchcock's version of Highsmith's thriller, which opened to mixed reviews, was nominated for an Academy Award for its cinematography by Robert Brook, as well as a Directors Guild Outstanding Directorial Achievement nomination for Hitchcock. Neither man won either award. While the film was short on wins, it was a box office success, with its' critical reputation growing with time. Roger Ebert gave it 4/4 stars, which is saying something. I'd say a remake sounds like a swell idea.
 
The cinematic skinny: A psychotic socialite confronts a pro tennis star with a theory on how two complete strangers can get away with murder...a theory that he plans to implement.
The book, as always, is a little more complicated to sum up.  I haven't read the novel, nor seen the movie but the thriller, where "under the right circumstances, anybody is capable of murder" sounds right up Fincher and Flynn's alley.
The literary lowdown: The world of Patricia Highsmith has always been filled with ordinary people, all of whom are capable of very ordinary crimes. This theme was present from the beginning, when her debut, Strangers on a Train, galvanized the reading public. Here we encounter Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno, passengers on the same train. But while Guy is a successful architect in the midst of a divorce, Bruno turns out to be a sadistic psychopath who manipulates Guy into swapping murders with him. "Some people are better off dead," Bruno remarks, "like your wife and my father, for instance." As Bruno carries out his twisted plan, Guy is trapped in Highsmith's perilous world, where, under the right circumstances, anybody is capable of murder.

The new film version: While Guy, the main character in Highsmith's novel is an architect, Hitchcock made him into a tennis pro. According to Deadline, in Fincher's version "Affleck will play a movie star in the middle of a campaign for an Oscar during awards season whose private plane breaks down and is given a ride to LA on another plane by a wealthy stranger." 
See? Fincher doesn't care he's not a nominee — unless the Academy offers a surprise tomorrow — he knows how the game is played and he's not buying. He's just making a movie about it, that's all. Ah, yes. Living well is the best revenge.

Apparently Affleck is going to squeeze Strangers — that's what they're calling the updated version —in between the HBO adaptation of Dennis Lehane's Live by Night which he's both directing and starring in and Justice League in 2016.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, the trailer for Strangers on a Train ... Alfred Hitchcock style.


*The Director's Guild nominees are:
Wes Anderson —The Grand Budapest Hotel
Clint Eastwood — American Sniper
Alejandro G. Iñárritu — Birdman
Richard Linklater — Boyhood
Morten Tyldum — The Imitation Game


2 comments:

  1. I can't wait for this one. I really like Patricia Highsmith. We just recently watched The Talented Mr Ripley for the third time. Such a good film!

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    Replies
    1. You've inspired me ... I"m about to watch Purple Noon - I'm told it's the French version of The Talented Mr. Ripley with Alain Delon!

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