Oh, awards season. This year, like so many others was just so… boring. So bland. So very predictable. Despite the gains from a few years ago, with few exceptions, this season is right back to the same old same old: remakes of classics and almost exclusively white protagonist focused films being lauded for doing the minimum.
As the crew of PCU were sitting around planning what we were going to do instead of watching the Oscars we wondered, if Hollywood insists on remaking the classics every five to ten years, why not make the character POCs, members of the LGBTQIA community or both?
And no, we’re not talking about Medea’s Shakespeare or Will and Grace: Little Women Edition. We’re talking about the same dialogue, the same premise, everything basically the same but with the cast and crews being members of marginalized communities.
Would Romeo and Juliet with LGBTQIA leads get the same kudos as the Dicaprio/Danes version? Would Emma receive the same production values if it had all POCs in the lead roles? What about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? Would these be considered award bait films if the dynamics were changed?
Unfortunately, we doubt it, but if we were to get our wish here are but a few films we’d like to see get an update.
Pride and Prejudice
Summary from eNotes: Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” centers on the conflict between marrying for love and marrying for economic reasons. None of Mr. Bennett’s five daughters can inherit his estate, so they are pressured into finding security in “good” marriages. Elizabeth Bennett, the main character, struggles with the societal pressures of marriage and resists Mr. Darcy’s advances and proposals. Eventually, however, she finds that she does love him, and for that reason, she decides to marry him.
So, this whole discussion started because Armand remarked in our video review of The Rise Of Skywalker that one of the biggest flaws of the entire sequel trilogy was not taking advantage of the amazing chemistry between Oscar Isaac and John Boyega. That immediately led me to wanting them in a period piece that used all the legit sexual tension between them, especially after seeing this and reading this. So, let’s just go all in by race and gender flipping the casting for this and give us all what we’ve been wanting since the moment that Finn and Poe met in The Force Awakens.
Setting: The same, as many folks tend to forget that there were many families of African descent in Europe at the time. Don’t believe me? Check out Medieval People of Color and fall down the rabbit hole.
Casting: The Bennett family is iconic, and for good reason, Austen gave us such a well rounded, fun, witty family that it would be a dream to portray any of them. Here are my picks!
Mr. Elijah Bennett: John Boyega – Snark? Yes. Insanely handsome? Yes. Amazing actor? Duh. Looks good in period costume? HELL. YES.
Mr Bennett: Chiwetel Ejiofor as the oft harassed, just wants to read a damn book in privacy, father of the Bennett children.
Mrs Bennett: Laverne Cox would be amazing as dizzy as hell Mama Bennett who just wants her children to have a good life.
Miss Jane Bennett: Michaela Coel as Elijah’s beautiful and utterly sweet sister who just wants to fall in love and get married to the right man.
Mr Linus Bennett: William Jackson Harper, Elijah and Jane’s gorgeous and spoiled brat of a brother who’s selfishness and ditziness causes more problems than it solves.
Mr Michael Bennett: Kofi Siriboe, heavily influenced by Linus and just obnoxious.
Ms Katherine ‘Kitty’ Bennett: Marsai Martin, the baby of the family, often overlooked.
Mr Charles Bingley: Jensen Ackles as Darcy’s insanely handsome best friend and the world’s kindest man, a perfect match for Jane.
Miss Caroline Bingley: While I’m not the biggest fan of her acting, bringing Jessica Alba in to play Caroline, Charles’ bitchy, vicious sister would finally reunite life long friends Alba and Ackles on screen for the first time since Dark Angel.
Ms Grace Wickham: D’Arcy Carden, Darcy’s former best friend who seems like the perfect match for Elijah but…
Mr William Collins: Charles Michael Davis as the daft idiot of a man who’s set on wooing at least one of the Bennett children much to the chagrin of Mr Bennett
Lady Catherine de Bourgh: Salma Hayek as the grand dame aunt of Darcy who is an utter snob of the highest order.
Ms Georgina Darcy: Isabela Merced as Darcy’s baby sister who thinks that his every word is sent from on high.
Ms Charlotte Lucas: As Elijah’s best friend and the only person in the entire novel who has a lick of basic common sense, Sarah Hyland would be perfect in the role.
Directed by: Salli Richardson
Richardson has been in the game for a minute, hello Maza, and is one of the most lowkey prolific actors, writers and directors working today. Her work on Queen Sugar, Black Lightning, The Punisher and so many more has been outstanding and her ability to hop genres seamlessly both as an actor and as a director make her the perfect fit for this.
Pygmalion/My Fair Lady
Summary per Wikipedia: Professor Henry Higgins, a scholar of phonetics, believes that the accent and tone of one’s voice determines a person’s prospects in society (“Why Can’t the English?”). At Covent Garden one evening, he meets Colonel Hugh Pickering, himself a phonetics expert who had come all the way from India to see him. Higgins boasts he could teach anyone to speak so well he could pass them off as a duke or duchess at an embassy ball, even the young woman with a strong Cockney accent named Eliza Doolittle who tries to sell them flowers. Eliza’s ambition is to work in a flower shop, but her accent makes that impossible (“Wouldn’t It Be Loverly”). The following morning, Eliza shows up at Higgins’ home, seeking lessons. Pickering is intrigued and offers to cover all the attendant expenses if Higgins succeeds. Higgins agrees, and describes how women ruin lives (“I’m an Ordinary Man”).
Higgins (Regina Hall) is a speech professor at an HBCU, and believes anyone can get over their fear of public speaking. At a faculty conference she meets Pickering (Khandi Alexander), a speech pathologist, who came from L.A. to meet her. Higgins boast she can improve anyone’s speech well enough to win an oratory competition. Even a café worker with a pronounced stutter. The following morning, Elliot (Donald Glover) shows up at Higgins’ classroom seeking lessons. Pickering is intrigued and offers to cover all the attendant expenses if Higgins succeeds.
Directed by Regina King
The Philadelphia Story
This classic romantic comedy focuses on Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn), a Philadelphia socialite who has split from her husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), due both to his drinking and to her overly demanding nature. As Tracy prepares to wed the wealthy George Kittredge (John Howard), she crosses paths with both Dexter and prying reporter Macaulay Connor (James Stewart). Unclear about her feelings for all three men, Tracy must decide whom she truly loves.
Idris Elba – Dexter Haven
Nia Long – Tracy Lord
Anthony Mackie – Mike Connor
Kerry Washington – Elizabeth Imbrie
Eddie Murphy – George Kittredge
The casting above would also include great opportunities for younger and senior actors in supporting roles and allow the comedic chops of all of the performers to shine. The biggest change that needs to be happen from the original film is the opening scene. The scene played as slapstick in the 40s but would be viewed as domestic violence today. However, the underlying themes of women marrying “the right man” and the relationships with their fathers are still rampant today.
Directed by Tina Gordon
I love the smell of…well, you know the rest. Imagine, though: the iconic Denzel Washington in the role of the power-mad Col. Kurtz (originally played by Marlon Brando). We know from Training Day that Washington has the chops to play a sinister character, and I feel like this one would really give the actor some room to showcase his varied skillset. Then think of who could go up against such a sinister and brilliant character. Only one name came to mind when I was thinking about this casting, and that was Common. Seeing his gravitas and personality infused into the Benjamin Willard role to which Martin Sheen originally gave life? That would be incredible. Then seeing him take Willard’s hallucinatory journey on the way to confront Kurtz? I doubt you could get better.
Directed by Jordan Peele:
The acclaimed horror director (of such awesome films as Get Out and Us) could really bring an otherworldly feel to the Vietnam setting, while dialing the film’s suspenseful elements all the way up.
I’d see this film over & over.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Let me tell you: I love Jimmy Stewart movies. I’ve seen almost all of them. That being said, I think that Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is one of the few that could withstand an update. But who could do the classic movie justice in this day and age? Well, I’m going to echo one of Belle’s actor choices here, and say that Oscar Isaac would be a perfect casting in the Jefferson Smith role (that was so deftly played by Stewart himself). I feel like Isaac has the same frenetic energy bubbling underneath the surface as Jimmy Stewart did in his heyday. Oscar Isaac could really nail the senate speech scenes, and I feel like his physical style most closely matches Jimmy Stewart’s. But then who would play Smith’s female foil, Clarissa Saunders (originally Jean Arthur), you ask? Well, as I was playing this fantasy film out in my head (not like that, you pervs!), I saw the face and sass of one Rosario Dawson in the role. I feel like Dawson really has the chops to be funny, sassy, and subtly put Isaac in his place throughout the whole film. I mean, who DIDN’T realize that Saunders was the boss in that relationship?
Directed by Spike Lee:
A piece like this deserves the talent and style of none other than Spike Lee. Why? Well, the film has got some political elements to it, and Lee is arguably one of the best political directors of this age. On the flip side of that, he’s got the experience and panache to give us some great comedic moments as well.
I’d relish the chance to see this movie remade with today’s subject matter & this talent.
Summary: Set in late-19th century Imperial Russia, the noblewoman and socialite Anna Karenina lives a loveless marriage with her husband, Count Alexei Karenin. She meets the cavalry officer Count Vronsky while traveling and they begin an affair. Along the way, she is caught in other stories of infidelity and the dangers of the aristocracy. Social, family, and political turmoil eventually drive Anna on a downward spiral toward her tragic fate.
Brooks Take: Like Cruel Intentions did to Dangerous Liaisons, the setting would be moved to the modern times and high society. Nobles would be replaced by the 1% and military officers with politicians. Scandal, socialite pressure, and politics would drive the protagonist into depression and prescription drug addiction. Unlike other adaptations, “Anna” would end the original way in the book – suicide by train.
Setting: Modern New York and Washington, DC would be the perfect backdrop. The glitz and glamour of wealthy parties, the meetings behind boardroom doors and in political offices, and the life of the privileged city would be perfect replacements for 19th century Russia.
“Anna” – China Anne McClain, Disney actor, singer, and star of Black Lightning. She portrays a young woman thrust into a marriage of convenience and money, yet who longs for a real relationship full of love and passion.
“Karenin” – Las Alonso, famous for Breakout Kings, The Mysteries of Luna, and The Boys. He plays “Anna’s” husband, a wealthy businessman twenty years her senior, who is well meaning but distant and prioritizes his work.
“Vronsky” – John David Washington, award-winning actor from Ballers and BlacKkKlansman. He portrays “Anna’s” lover, a DC politician who’s torn between his whirlwind affair and the pressures of avoiding scandal in his career.
“Lidia” – Kerry Wasington, award-winning actor from Scandal and Confirmation. She plays the role of “Anna’s” antagonist, a socialite willing to ruin the young woman’s life, driving her into depression, drugs, and eventually death.
Directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood. If anyone knows how to portray the drama, passion, and torment of the protagonist, it’s the award-winning director and writer of Love & Basketball, The Secret Life of Bees, and Beyond the Lights.
These are just a few of our picks, what about you? What films or series would you like to see updated with a bit of actual diversity? Let us know in the comments!