In the time-honored industry habit of returning again and again to the same well, remakes have proven even more ubiquitous than sequels. Whether it be redoing a hit to see whether lightning will strike twice (“The Pink Panther,” “The Shaggy Dog,” “The Omen”) or trying to give a so-so pic some class (“Casino Royale,” “Poseidon”), Hollywood has never shown any reticence in ransacking its own legacy.
Some of this year’s major screenplays will doubtless be revisited in years to come. And it might go a little something like this …
Five years from now… 2012
- Foreign films are always prime fodder for a remake. Pedro Almodovar gets the bright idea to adapt his own “Volver” script, casting Halle Berry as the redoubtable Raimunda in a version set in New Orleans, whose cultural view of death and zest for life parallel those of La Mancha. Choice of Miss Diana Ross to play the mother is a volver (“come-back”) to die for.
- Ready for her first mature role, Dakota Fanning opts for the Anne Hathaway role in a new version of “The Devil Wears Prada,” with helmer Todd Haynes bringing out the gay subtext in Aline Brosh McKenna’s script. Slimmed down by 80 pounds but still wearing his Edna Turnblad drag, John Travolta wins an Oscar as Miranda Priestley.
- Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen sign to play the life-swapping Internet pals in a remake of Nancy Meyers’ “The Holiday,” but pic has to be shelved when the gals keep forgetting who’s playing which role.
Ten years from now… 2017
- Determined to validate his stylistic experiment, Steven Soderbergh tackles Paul Attanasio’s “The Good German” script once more. This time, the magic of digital technology allows him to create virtual performances from Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and John Hodiak in the leads, as well as using all the sets from Billy Wilder’s 1948 “A Foreign Affair” and a Danny Kaye musical number from “Up in Arms.”
- 2011’s Tony Award-winning tuner “Happy Feet: The Broadway Musical,” with its multiple chorus lines of tap-dancing penguins and world-famous special effect of a glacier descending on the audience, comes to the bigscreen under the direction of Susan Stroman. Mel Brooks refashions the original screenplay by Warren Coleman, John Collee, George Miller and Judy Morris.
- In a similarly ecological vein, Al Gore teams with Aardman to remake “An Inconvenient Truth” as an animated musical. “Truth Decay” stars Ray Romano as the world’s last polar bear and Billy Crystal as the voice of Carbon Dioxide, though Gore himself is not deemed animated enough to appear onscreen.
- Kids grow up so fast these days. At the ripe age of 22, Dakota Fanning makes her helming debut by remaking Bill Condon’s “Dreamgirls,” rewritten to parallel the true story of the Dixie Chicks’ rise, fall from grace and vindication. On first day of shooting, a testy Fanning tells Natalie Maines to “shut up and act.”
- Scarlett Johansson deems herself ready for the Cate Blanchett role in Patrick Marber’s new take on Zoe Heller’s novel “Notes on a Scandal.” Her English accent finally perfected, Madonna takes over for Judi Dench.
- Returning to both of his 2006 hits, scribe Peter Morgan persuades Helen Mirren to star in “The Last Queen of England,” the true-life story of how Elizabeth II, in her famous “I’ve bloody well had enough” address, turned the U.K. into a republic at the urging of her young house physician, played by Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt (now acting under the name Mary Smith).
- Garrison Keillor chronicles the demise of the BBC’s long-running, gentle talk and music show in “A Desert Island Discs Companion,” with guest appearances by Sir Clive Owen, Sir Daniel Craig, Sir Sacha Baron Cohen and Dame Posh Spice.
Twenty five years from now… 2032
- Somerset Maugham warhorse “The Painted Veil” is trotted out yet again, with cuckolded hubby (Zac Efron) taking cheating wife (Suri Cruise) to Florida to fight the bird flu epidemic of 2015 that decimated the population of Miami. Jeff Smith, creator of the “Bone” comic series, works from Ron Nyswaner’s 2006 adaptation.
- Buoyed by a string of successes, Dakota Fanning dons dual hats of director and screenwriter on her dream project epic “Apocalypto Now,” using the bare outline of Mel Gibson’s and Farhad Zafinia’s original script. Natural disasters and heart attacks stalk the troubled shoot, in which the denizens of two enemy planets battle in outer space until a craft manned by artificial intelligence sails in to lull combatants to sleep with recitations of “The Waste Land.” Scene in which an alien bites off an astronaut’s face mask is a special highlight.
Fifty years from now… 2057
- Incredibly, Clint Eastwood is still cranking out quality pics. In his 126th year he revisits a pair of his best through the prism of the now-almost-resolved Iraqi conflict when he gives scripts by William Broyles Jr. and Paul Haggis and Iris Yamashito a thorough redusting with “Flags of Our Grandfathers,” immediately followed by “Letters From Baghdad.”
- Bitter over the lack of the Oscar he has earned several times over, ancient lecher Leonardo DiCaprio bags a nom for playing an ancient lecher in remake of Hanif Kureishi’s “Venus.”
- Also bitter is much-nominated, never-a-bride helmer Dakota Fanning, who remakes “The Departed” with two hot young stars. Covering all bets, DiCaprio signs on for sure Oscar nom in the Jack Nicholson role.
- “Blood Diamond” is remade — exactly as first written by Charles Leavitt. Sadly, little has changed on that troubled continent.