Remake watch: 'Captain Blood' edition
I have to admit that when I first read that Warner Bros. was moving forward with a remake of "Captain Blood" I did a Web-style double take, convinced I had clicked on the Onion by mistake. According to Variety, the studio decided that the best way to usher the beloved 1935 Errol Flynn pirate classic into the modern world was by setting the movie ... in outer space!
But it's no joke, even though producer Bill Gerber admits that when he first heard filmmakers Michael and Peter Spierig ("Undead") tout the project he thought he'd been transported to the scene in "The Player" where Buck Henry pitches an equally outlandish sequel to "The Graduate." The studio has hired screenwriter John Brownlow to work with the Spierig brothers on an updated story, where the pirates will presumably look more like Starfleet troopers than bearded ruffians.
When I called Gerber, he was matter-of-fact about the changes. "When it comes to swashbuckling, you just couldn't go back to the pirate era, not once you've experienced the juggernaut that is 'Pirates of the Caribbean,' '' he explains. "So we needed to find a new way to tell the story."
For Gerber, the best option was not a present-day story involving the Somali pirates -- who are probably too vile and desperate to base an entertainment around -- but a story set a couple of hundred years in the future. "It's still the classic 'Captain Blood' storyline: Peter Blood has been wronged by the powers-that-be and he wants to get even. But the best way to recreate that is by putting it in space, where you can have a totalitarian style of government that's actually pretty similar to what England was like in the 17th century."
The six degrees of separation: Being on the inside in Hollywood really helps. It turns out that one of the key people to recommend the Spierig brothers to Gerber was Warner distribution chief Dan Fellman, whose son, Todd, is a producer on "Daybreakers," a vampire film the brothers just directed that is slated to premiere at the Toronto Film Festival before hitting theaters in January.
What you can read between the lines: If you want to remake an old thriller, you'd better find a way to make it in a modern-day setting; or, even better, in the world of the future. At today's studios, especially when it comes to summer adventure extravaganzas, period films have become absolute box-office poison.
Odds of a new 'Captain Blood' coming to a multiplex near you: 35%. Obviously it will need a good script and the right kind of young star -- do we hear any votes for Robert Pattinson? -- who could possibly fill the big shoes of Errol Flynn. Futuristic thrillers have a very mixed track record, but Warner loves brand-name movies and is especially eager to get new franchises off the ground, so if the ingredients come together "Captain Blood" could make it to the starting gate.