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Modest ‘Scarecrow’ Preps Fresh Field in Gotham

Jerry Schatzberg, who directed the 1973 Palme d’Or winner starring Al Pacino, Gene Hackman, has plans for sequel

For proof of how much the film industry has changed over the past four decades, one need look no further than Jerry Schatzberg’s “Scarecrow,” which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes 40 years ago this month. The enigmatically open-ended road movie returns to New York screens May 17, digitally restored, for a one-week run at the Film Forum.

Greenlighted by Warner Bros. as an alternative to faltering big-budget fare, the pic featured Gene Hackman (then hot off “The Poseidon Adventure”) and Al Pacino (in between “The Godfather” and “Serpico”) as drifters who dream big, hatching a plan to open a car wash together once they reach Pittsburgh.

At last month’s TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, Schatzberg announced that he and a young scribe named Seth Cohen have written a follow-up to “Scarecrow.” Assuming they can get Warners’ permission to use the characters, the film would have to be produced independently, acknowledges the helmer (who hasn’t directed a feature since 2000’s “The Day the Ponies Come Back”).

“It takes place 30 years later, and it basically deals with the boy they thought was dead,” says Schatzberg, who sent the script to Pacino a couple weeks back. “Now these guys have a very successful car wash. Hackman is married to Frenchy, and they have an adopted daughter. She’s Asian, and she’s a pistol.”

While Schatzberg and Pacino remain friendly, Hackman has since withdrawn from acting. And though Alexander Payne tried to lure him out of retirement for “Nebraska,” without success, Schatzberg had reason to hope: Hackman has called “Scarecrow” his favorite role.

“I actually went out to Santa Fe hoping I’d run into him,” the director says. “I got myself a good case of the flu, but I didn’t see Hackman.”

Alas, the reclusive actor has moved on, publishing several novels in recent years. “I think it is great that Jerry is writing a sequel,” he tells Variety. “While I do love that film, my ‘Scarecrow’ days are over.”

Even so, Schatzberg has a plan: “If I see interest from Al, I’ll push for it. I can always fi nd another actor to fit in there .”

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