Because Will Smith's last foray into the Western genre was so successful, he just has to strap on cowboy boots and six-shooters once again, doesn't he? Anyone who saw Wild Wild West (or heard the song) knows that's sarcasm. The Wrap reports that the After Earth star is in talks with Warner Bros. to star in their remake of The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah's brutal 1969 classic. Smith will also likely serve as a producer through this Overbrook Entertainment company. Until his suicide last year, Tony Scott had been developing the remake from a script by Oscar-winner Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential).
The new Wild Bunch will be decidedly different from the original, a rapidly-edited, explosively violent elegy to the Old West in which aging outlaws try to hit paydirt one last time along the U.S.-Mexico border before the West they know disappears forever. Weintraub and Warner Bros. plan something far more radical, though: they want their Wild Bunch remake to be set in the present day and following a disgraced DEA agent (Smith) as he assembles a posse to cross the border and apprehend a Mexican drug lord. Meaning that it's basically an entirely different film.
No release date has been set, and representatives for Smith and Weintraub didn't immediately return requests for comment.
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For Steven Soderbergh, Behind the Candelabra, his new HBO movie about flamboyant pop star Liberace (Michael Douglas) and live-in lover Scott Thorson (Matt Damon), was years in the making.
"For years I was thinking about it but couldn’t figure out a way in. I didn't want a traditional biopic and I couldn’t figure out what the angle was," Soderbergh tells TV reporters at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. But the project came together once a friend told him to read Thorson's tell-all book about the relationship, Behind the Candelabra.
Portraying the couple in a realistic manner was very important to Soderbergh and screenwriter Richard LaGravenese. "We take the relationship seriously," Soderbergh says. "My feeling based on some of the research we did indicated that it was a real relationship and it was, at that point, the longest relationship Liberace had had. I was very anxious that we not make a caricature of either of the characters or the relationship. There’s no question that it’s unfortunate to see the movie through a contemporary lens and know that they weren’t able to be as open back then as people are today."
Damon, who plays Thorson, says that sensitivity came across in the script. "When you’ve made a lot of movies it's really rare to even see a script this good," he says. "It was so complex, their relationship. Richard so got this dynamic. Whether this was the actual dynamic or not, I completely believed what he had written. ... So it was fun, but we weren’t giggling about it. We took it very seriously."
That said, there were some outrageous elements Damon and Douglas encountered in portraying both men. "I’ve always been somebody who goes into the wardrobe fitting and I try to get out as fast as I can," Damon says. "I probably spent more time in the wardrobe fittings on this thing than I had in the previous 15 projects — literally days and days and days. And I really enjoyed it."
Douglas had met Liberace a few times as a child thanks to his father, but studied footage of the musician to really portray him well. "There’s a tremendous amount of clips and films that certainly give you a sense and idea [of what he was like]," Douglas explains.
Although Liberace's larger-than-life personality is often poked fun at now, executive producer Jerry Weintraub notes that Liberace's musicianship is often overlooked.
"I think that it's well known within the industry and among musicians that he’s among the best pianists of all time, but he became a great showman," Weintraub says. "I think his piano playing became secondary to [pleasing] his audience. ... He presented a spectacle every night."
Ultimately, Behind the Candelabra is very respectful, Weintraub says. "Everybody appreciated [Liberace] and appreciated his career, and I think Stephen captured that on film."
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[PHOTO CREDIT: Miguel Aguilar/Pacific Coast News]
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Thorson carried on a six-year affair with the flamboyant entertainer until 1982, and he wrote about their controversial romance in his memoir Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace.
Producer Jerry Weintraub picked up the project in the hopes of adapting the book into a new movie and it is now in production, with Douglas playing the piano legend and Matt Damon starring as his much younger boyfriend Thorson.
In August (12) Thorson was diagnosed with advanced anal cancer, prompting him to reach out to the Oscar winner, who recently beat stage four throat cancer, for support, but his request was promptly shut down.
He tells the National Enquirer, "All I wanted to do was meet Michael and talk to him about my cancer. But I was bluntly told it would be impossible. That really hurt... Right now, I'm very scared... I don't know if I'll make it to the premiere in May (13)."
But Thorson admits he did get some sympathy from Weintraub: "About three months ago, I got one phone call from Jerry Weintraub when he found out that I had cancer. He said, 'I'm very sorry that you're going through cancer.'"
There are two signs that you are (or were) an iconic figure. The first: you are known by a single name—Cher, Madonna, Barbra...you get the idea. The second: they make a movie about your love-life. These are just solid facts, people. So, if there was any doubt about Liberace's iconicism, all of it can be put to rest now. Director Steven Soderbergh and producer Jerry Weintraub are putting together a biopic about the famous singer as an HBO movie. Impressive figures are not limited to those behind the camera; Michael Douglas will play Liberace himself, while Matt Damon will play his lover Scott Thorson.
Liberace's relationship with Thorson was famous for two reasons. First of all, it was an open secret that Liberace was homosexual (despite his many denials). Obviously, during Liberace's time in the spotlight in the 1950s and '60s, prejudices against homosexuality were rampant in American society. Suspicions about Liberace being gay resulted in a good deal of ridicule against him.
Additionally, after his and Liberace's relationship ended, Thorson opened a palimony lawsuit against Liberace in the 1980s, not long before the pianist's passing.
The film will cover the love and lawsuit between the two men, likely highlighting Liberace's fame as well as the secrecy of their love as a strain on what could have been an otherwise healthy relationship.
Production will begin in the summer of 2012.