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Plot Details Revealed For Will Smith/Denzel Washington "Uptown Saturday Night" Remake (Script Complete)

by Tambay A. Obenson
March 1, 2012 11:23 AM
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Last I wrote about this was almost exactly a year ago... an update this morning (courtesy of MTV) says that writer Tim Dowling (This Means War) (who was hired last year to pen the script) has finished and turned it in, and that Will Smith and Denzel Washington are still very much attached to star in the roles originated by Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby in the 1974 film.

Here's what Dowling revealed about his take on the story:

"Will Smith is producing it. He hired me to write it because he liked the script for 'This Mean's War.' He and Denzel Washington grew up loving the original... It’s been a fun one to write, I just turned it in. We’re all hoping it’s something [Washington] wants do... the funny thing is, Will is so funny but hasn’t done a comedy in a while and Denzel I don’t think has ever done a comedy. I think the pairing would be great... David Dobkin is attached to direct it and hopefully we’ll get that going... The best way to describe it is a 'one crazy night' movie but it's not just one night... Both of the main characters are blue collar guys, one doesn’t get a promotion, one’s business isn’t doing great, they go out for a night and get caught up in something they need to find their way out of. It’s similar in tone to 'The Hangover.' I think it will be really fun."

Things that make you go hmmm, right? Obviously, still not a lot to go on here, so I'll reserve comment till we know more. I do like the emphasis on so-called "blue collar guys" though.

Years ago, Will Smith expressed interest in remaking the Sidney Poitier/Bill Cosby 70s film, Uptown Saturday Night. However, sadly for Smith, and despite sounding like a possible all-star African American Ocean’s Eleven-style romp, very little actually happened on the project since he acquired the rights, even though Smith had reportedly also talked with Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, and Denzel Washington about co-starring.

2 years ago, Warner Bros was on the hunt for a writer to rewrite the most recent draft of the script at the time, which was penned by Cop Out’s Mark and Robb Cullen. It looked like the project would surely happen, and was only a matter of when.

A year later, Warner Bros. and Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment brought on comedy writer Tim Dowling to rewrite the Uptown Saturday Night script, with David Dobkin (who? Oh yeah, the guy who directed Shanghai Knights and Wedding Crashers) attached to direct.

As an aside... seriously though, these jobs really could have gone to a black writer and a black director, couldn't they? If only to keep it somewhat in the spirit that the first trio of films were made - all 3 directed by Sidney Poitier; 2 written by African American playwright Richard Wesley; the other by Charles Blackwell, also African American.

There certainly are a few of them (writers and directors of African descent) who could use the work, and I think do a serviceable job with the project.

It's one of those films that would be sold mainly on its big name stars, and not who's directing or writing it, so why not give a brotha or sistah a shot?

Anyway... so it goes... moving on... obviously the remake will likely diverge from the original storyline.

Of the 3 in the trilogy, the second, Let’s Do It Again, is by far, my favorite! It still very much holds up today.

Stay tuned…

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  • Michele Morgan | March 6, 2012 2:07 PMReply

    Hooray for Will Smith! I feel like African Americans need to learn from the 70's. Remember the so-called "Black exploitation" films? We loved OUR stories being told. Let's just say screw those Hollywood execs! Let's just make our own great films and support each other! I'm with it!!!!

  • The MAJ of History | March 6, 2012 11:29 AMReply

    Of all the movies to do by our famous Black actors why this?? How about historical black figures such as the Black doctor that tried to save Linclon, Madame CJ Walker, W.E.B. Dubois, Marcus Garvey, black slaves who fought for the south, etc....Spike, where are you on these subjects!!!

  • I`am Not Mad | March 6, 2012 12:25 AMReply

    S@^T ON WILL SMITH....He will never call a Ms.V. Davis .

  • Stars | March 5, 2012 11:56 PMReply

    NOOOOOOO. The original is a classic.....pertinent to its time!!! Leave it alone. Hey I know what Will and Denzel could another "Safe House" and let Will play the Ryan Reynolds character!!!! I know they already did that but do a knew passing the torch movie or an edgy detective flick like "Seven" remember!!!! Please NO remake of this!!!!!

  • Samuel | March 4, 2012 6:39 AMReply

    Too much of a fan of the original to want a remake. Love to see Denzel and Will do something new together. "In Hollywood, nobody wants to be first, everybody wants to be second."

  • Betty Chambers | March 3, 2012 6:09 PMReply

    Just need to know: will all the "black actresses" pass the paper bag test? 'Cause Will is not gonna have any dark sistas in this flick. Right, right, right?

    Oh, wait! It has to be a mainstream, not black, film, so it will probably be devoid of black women like Red Tails!

  • Cherish | March 6, 2012 10:15 AM

    I bet you 5 bucks that Gabourey Sidibe will be in this movie.

  • Stars | March 5, 2012 11:59 PM

    I'm totally with you on this. THERE WILL BE NO.....I REPEAT!!! THERE WILL BE NO DARK SKINNED BLACK ACTRESSES IN THIS MOVIE. It's mainstream, must cross-over, and most importantly must sell overseas! Thandie Newton, Paula Patton, Sallie Richardson, and Halle Berry ....look for the offer to come on this movie!

  • linda lewy | March 2, 2012 9:51 PMReply

    Im so over the thing of hiring black because of this and that, see the person, not the colour. Morgan Freeman always saying see the heart of the person. Black people will always get the jobs they need, recently ive seen a man who only pays the black and refuses to pay a white guy who started 10 years playing at the festival until the involvement of the blacks 5 years ago, he figures he could pay one more black man, but the truth is that white guy introduced the music of the didgeridoo to the festival and has a history of making it come into being, he should be paid first really and so we got to get back to seeing the person for the heart they are, and the talent they got. What i love about will is that he hires all colours of people, if he didn't i wouldnt be a part of here talking, im about expressing the interest of a whole of people, not about becoming black family ONLY. gO Will we love you!

  • linda lewy | March 5, 2012 9:12 PM

    i said black or white yellow or red. not one or the other baby, keep on laughing at yourself

  • jmac | March 4, 2012 9:05 AM

    "recently ive seen a man who only pays the black" .... Yeah, we know why you only want us to see the heart. Go tell the white producers to do it first. And Black people have more to contribute to society in film than giving you a good laugh.

  • linda lewy | March 2, 2012 9:43 PMReply

    Will Smith and another black actor will do the film justice. We need more comedies, ive noticed lately that alot of films coming out of hollywood lack comedy and so it is time for a shapeshift into the world of comedy again. I think and feel that will smith is somewhat of a genius to have obtained the rights to this movie and i feel that he has good timing getting dowling on board. What a script This Means War was i absolutely loved it and the whole picture. Anyway its long overdue for will smith to partner washington and should washington deter eddie murphy or lawrence would be great too. chris tucker can hold his own at the moment too and can forest whitaker do comedy, something new for him. I love that actor, but of course will smith is my favourite. He's a egotistical bastard sometimes, nevertheless ive warmed to him over the years, he's got this boyish charisma that makes him palatable even with his gigantic ego.
    I think he should go straight into filming after shimaylans or after independence day, forgetting all the other scripts offerred. Its due for this film or independence day. We want box office material so that he can offer more in the philanthropy work and humanitarian, "whilst people are sleeping, im working - will smith". what a guy. i will always love his sheer determination, what a shame i didnt become famous and marry him before pinkett snapped him up, haha, she's quite a gal and those kids are truly something. Well in my next life i will have to hike up the dowry, but until then im concentrating on hitting 110 like sidney, go sidney we want to see you live a long time......Truly i got a wonderful husband, he's close to will, maybe he can hire him for a movie, what do you say smith man, im in the background relaxing and fishing, ha

  • Reelblack | March 2, 2012 11:12 AMReply

    I agree w/ Tambay... The original Uptown saturday Night is a classic because it so much about the nuances of African-American life. Not to hire Black writers and directors for this one is a misstep.

  • coolcalm | March 2, 2012 1:10 AMReply

    It's hilarious that the one of the biggest things that stood out to me in the article was the Will Smith actually liked the script to This Means War! I don't know maybe it's better than it looks...

  • Mark & Darla | March 1, 2012 10:41 PMReply

    Public asks why movies coming out of hollywood are so bad, cause white hollywood keep using the same writers, no fresh imaginative thinking. The whole beginning of updating this classic movie smell stink.

  • Ava | March 1, 2012 7:11 PMReply

    Very strange, just yesterday, after seeing this movie on Bounce, I had read on Wikipedia that Will Smith's company had optioned the rights to the trilogy! What a coincidence! Professor Richard Wesley was one of my professors and sometime academic adviser while in Grad School. It does irk me to think there might not be a Black screenwriter at the very least, working on this since Prof Wesley wrote both Uptown Saturday Night & Let's Do It Again. It's not as if there are no highly qualified Black screenwriters available. The writers & directors attached to this do not sound very exciting (How did This Means War do critically and financially??).

  • CJ | March 12, 2012 2:25 AM

    Denzel also made the awful movie "Heart Condition" with Bob Hoskins (comedy). It was so bad, Zel fired his agent...

  • Michele | March 2, 2012 12:57 PM

    Yes Ava Denzel's first feature was Carbon Copy and was a comedy (as it were - not that funny tho) but b/c I am a true Denz fan I still loved it

  • Ava | March 1, 2012 7:21 PM

    I forgot to mention 2 things:

    1) According to Wikipedia (i.e. take w/ a grain of salt), Smith bought the rights to the trilogy in 2002, which is why just yesterday I wondered what had happened with this film). Perhaps the timing means the option was about to run out?

    2) I believe that the 1st film that Denzel Washington did was a comedy. Wasn't it called Carbon Copy w/ George Segal? That was indeed a comedy but it was about 30 years ago. Denzel can indeed do comedy.

  • Nicole | March 1, 2012 3:56 PMReply

    I'm trying to get past this:
    "He hired me to write it because he liked the script for 'This Mean's War...'"

    Really Will? You liked that script? Ok.

  • Donella | March 4, 2012 3:44 PM

    LOL! The concept, "liking This Means War," threw me too. I'm still trying to process that.

  • ShebaBaby | March 1, 2012 11:27 PM

    Well Will Smith did produce "This Means War" so I'm assuming he did like the script. I still don't understand this I make it in Hollywood yet I don't hire black writers, directors, etc. for my films. Knowing good and well how blatantly racist Hollywood is. These negros kill me being so selfish and this goes for Will, Tyler, Chris Rock etc.. We really need some new energy when it comes to the successful blacks in Hollywood because the ones who've made it so far clearly don't give a damn about anyone but themselves...that is until it comes time to ask us to support their dreadful movies written by someone who knows nothing about us. sigh.

  • CareyCarey | March 1, 2012 3:42 PMReply

    @ Charles Judson, as usual you've uncovered a few very important business decisions. None of them can be denied. Now lets take a walk down the creative lane. I will be the first to say a "white team" should not put their hands on this. Listen, I am not waving the black flag and the clinched black fist, nor am I crying racism in all it's complexities. However, if and when one does their research on the history of the trilogy, it will soon become apparent that much of their success is a "black" thang. First and foremost the cast was black, led by 2 of the most powerful entertainers of that period, Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby. And, most of the cast had worked with the both of them on stage and in movies (they were hand picked). On top of that, the writer actually lived in Sidney's home while he was writing the script for the first installment. Yep, every night he would write upstairs in his room. In the morning he would meet with Sidney to get his input and suggestions. Btw, the writer was a black man. I can go on about this cohesive unit, this bond between the producers, writer and the actors, but I know you see my point. In short, the entire process was a "black" thang. It's my belief (and I've said this many times) that when we casually give/put our stories, our flavor, our humor and our small nuances of who we are in the hands of non-POC's, we are walking a very slippery slope. Racism aside, we are in essence watering down our history and asking for a "lessor" product.

  • CareyCarey | March 3, 2012 1:35 PM

    Yes Charles, you're feeling it and I am feeling you. You've captured all the elements that would make this a success on so many levels. Now, lets say it again so everyone puts our comments in the proper context... HERE---> "Go for a $25 million or under budget, bring in Kasi Lemmons (who knows how to create characters and could make a small budget look much bigger) or a Rusty Cundieff (who knows comedy, especially subversive comedy--think of the subtle references to the current economy he could add without it turning into big ass stop signs) to direct, set it in ANY place other than NY or LA, bring in the best dramatic and comedic character actors like the original, and just have fun". That's right, bring it home and jusy have fun. Okay, it's time one mo again. Now, reference rather or not someone other than a POC can tell our stories, I wrote a poem. The title is Coming Home: In our lives there comes a time and a space when we know where we come from. When the words and the rhythm come together, the signs and roads merge and we become one with our roots. Acknowledging the people whose backs served as bridges, whose dreams and aspirations fed us, whose couragous acts of faith guided us. Even away from the village, away from the place we call home, we take with us tender lessons that bring us back, they always bring us back home. Home is where the body comes to rest. It's where our eyes can behold the place where love sustains us. It's where we come to talk that talk around those who understand. We know we belong because home is the place that got us over. When we arrive we realize our mission is to reach back, reach over, reach around and reach through to embrace one another. We can save one another when survival becomes more than just breathing. It is solidarity! The African proverb states I am because you are and because you are, therefore I am. And when we reach that space and we know that, there is a rejoicing in the spirit cause we made the trip home... Coming Home.

    Side note: Charles (if you're reading this) do you feel comfortable with giving me your (a) mailing address?

  • Charles Judson | March 1, 2012 9:47 PM

    Definitely on board with this. That cohesive unit is exactly why that film probably holds up so well. When they were writing it, they were writing it for them. It wasn't about anything other than a film featuring ordinary Black folks getting into an extraordinary situation that Sidney and Bill and everyone else is clearly having a good time starring in. And also on board about the nuances and flavor. Makes me wonder if a pre-BIG WILLIE THE ACTOR would have thought smaller and more cohesive. Going with a THIS MEANS WAR writer definitely means they're going "bigger" and possibly blander. Go for a $25 million or under budget, bring in Kasi Lemmons (who knows how to create characters and could make a small budget look much bigger) or a Rusty Cundieff (who knows comedy, especially subversive comedy--think of the subtle references to the current economy he could add without it turning into big ass stop signs) to direct, set it in ANY place other than NY or LA, bring in the best dramatic and comedic character actors like the original, and just have fun.

  • Shola Akinnuso | March 1, 2012 3:21 PMReply

    There are certain times where the director's background really makes a difference. Let's Do It Again totally depends on the flavor they're going for. In my dream world, this would be a Spike-helmed project. However, if the goal is to make a mainstream, culturally innocuous, buddy flick, then it doesn't really matter who the director or writer is. The benefit of having a director that matches the culture of the subject matter is in his choices within the details not necessarily shown in the script. From input on music choices (or in choosing the right music supervisor), to showing background characters engaging in blocking that adds that extra texture to really sell the scene, matching directors and culture - most of the time - is the best way to go if the goal is to sell something genuine.

  • Kevin Sorrell | March 3, 2012 8:19 AM

    Couldn't have said it better myself, Shola. And the idea of Spike Lee directing this IMMEDIATELY got me excited about the possibilities...

  • CareyCarey | March 1, 2012 4:05 PM

    BINGO-BINGO-BINGO BABY... that's my number! Your comment was right on time. --->"The benefit of having a director that matches the culture of the subject matter is in his choices within the details not necessarily shown in the script". There it is! Drop the mic and turn out the lights... nuff said.

  • Zeus | March 1, 2012 2:11 PMReply

    "Of the 3 in the trilogy, the second, Let’s Do It Again, is by far, my favorite! It still very much holds up today." ---- Agreed.

  • Charles Judson | March 1, 2012 2:09 PMReply

    What makes UPTOWN work is that it's a film featuring blue collar-middle class Black folks without being about blue collar-middle class Black folks. It still holds up so well. Having a creative team that was of color would have been welcomed. But, I have three questions. What has development process has been like--so who got to pitch early on? It could be Black writers and directors pitched their takes and none fit, or they got a shot and everyone passed. Two, how much of this has to do with Hollywood's over reliance on returning to the same writers for rewrites and script doctoring because that's who they've used before? It's the safe option of inoculating yourself if the film tanks or if you want to calm the fears of the execs writing the checks. Three, how much of this is no one wanting to admit that if they bring in an all Black cast, a Black director and a Black writer, they'll have a very expensive "Black" movie on their hands? Reminds me of when BOOMERANG came out and it was labeled as an underwhelming performer by many commentators, even though the film did $131 million worldwide on a budget of $42 million, directed by someone Black, with only Eddie Murphy as the bona fide A list star in the cast at time. Which reminds, me it's kind disappointing we only got one Boomerang style film out of Eddie. He might have had a different career path if he had done one or two more romantic comedies.

  • Quentin | March 1, 2012 12:59 PMReply

    Hollywood has lost their way.

  • MARK H | March 2, 2012 10:27 AM


  • ShebaBaby | March 1, 2012 11:31 PM

    Black Hollywood has lost their way.

    *fixed that for ya* ;-)

  • Jason Gilmore | March 1, 2012 12:56 PMReply

    Let's Do It Again is my favorite also. (thought I was the only one who liked it over the other two.) Given Will's consistent track record of not hiring brothers & sisters behind the camera in the past, his finding a white writer & director is not surprising, just disappointing. Nevertheless, I wish this film the best and hope that it becomes a monster hit and a certifiable classic.

  • Ray | March 1, 2012 12:39 PMReply

    Black director, black writer. Already, the racial politics begin. This is a pet project for will smith. How about we just trust his creative judgement?

  • Charles Judson | March 1, 2012 10:52 PM

    I'm normally with you on something like this Ray, but I think this is one of those times having more people of color in the mix would make a huge difference. A few years ago I wrote a piece about how Atlanta became a major Black hub. I pointed out that having LET'S DO IT AGAIN set partially in a 1970s Atlanta, and making the character's definitively blue-collar is definitely no accident. Long before Atlanta became the terribly nicknamed Hotlanta in the 1990s, please remove that from your vocabulary, it was already a place where blue collar and middle class Blacks were making strides post Civil Rights and had been decades before that. Placing the characters in Atlanta at that time informs everything from them being in a lodge to them going to New Orleans with their wives for a getaway. Think about that. Black folks in a movie going off to have fun. That's not something you got to see in movies. Even now. At least not without some folks making it into some big baller weekend--look, we're Black folks with money, doing it up big!!!, and not something that's more down to earth and realistic like it was in LET'S DO IT AGAIN. Setting it in Gary, Indiana or a Newark, New Jersey of the 1970s would have brought their own nuances and influences as well. There's a combination of hope about the future of Black folks and the reality of being comfortably a few paychecks away from being poor, but still even more from doing really well, that underlies the humor of those original movies. It's because they are specific that I'd argue that they are considered timeless and folks not even alive when they came out are still discovering them. As such, I'm not really sure what a White guy would know about portraying two blue-collar Black guys in today's world. I'm sure he can write jokes, but can he create characters that feel as grounded as Bill and Sidney's did? Not sure that's in the cards. See Cedric the Entertainer's THE HONEYMOONERS as a recent example of a movie about two blue-collar characters that doesn't seem to have any affinity for what it means to be blue-collar other than movie version blue-collar. It's like it exists in some strange pocket universe in which all the historical and social background of the characters have been downplayed or sucked out. A soulless UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT remake that you can probably substitute Chris Pine and Tom Hardy into, without skipping a beat, I can do without. If the writers nail it, I'll be the first to apologize for doubting them, but I'll wait to see what drops first.

  • Miles Ellison | March 1, 2012 10:05 PM

    How about we don't?

  • RAY | March 1, 2012 1:51 PM

    @rod, I don't assume u are a troll and neither am I. But I can't understand how criticism starts right of the bat when smith gets a green light on a project he has always wanted to do. Sure it would be great if a black director and writer were at the helm but I just feel that the race police will find another fault. Criticism is good but it should always be constructive. I wonder how many ppl will refuse to see the movie if their personal racial quota is not met?

  • Rod | March 1, 2012 12:59 PM

    Call it racial politics but why not bring in a black director and writer on a film that is a cult classic in the black community. And maybe I'm wrong but I don't hear of many mainstream Hollywood producers calling in black writers or directors on a project unless it's deemed a "black" project. Don''t get me wrong, I'm not saying hire inferior black writers... because there are good black writers and directors out here. Black artisans in this town are only seen as people who can work on "black" projects. While white artisans can work on any project, no matter what the theme. When they remake WEST WORLD please give EVERYONE a shot. And Ray, I'm not trying to start one of those debates on race. I'm not an internet gangster as some tend to be, I'm just expressing my thoughts.

  • CareyCarey | March 1, 2012 11:34 AMReply

    Eye sores!!! Oh, excuse me, I was thinking about commenting on this post but I got distracted by all the busy advertisements and what-nots. Geez, the space for the current posts are shrinking faster than the toes of the Wicked Witch of The West. Hint: Don't sell your soul nor forget where you came from.

  • jmac | March 1, 2012 10:38 PM

    Pssst.... download adblock for your web browser.

  • ARNEADER | March 1, 2012 11:33 AMReply

    This would be great! I can't imagine Denzel being comedic...but he's an actor.

  • Mychele | December 15, 2012 9:24 PM

    I can cast the main characters in this with movie with African American actor and actress. Will smith. And Martin Lawrence as poitier and Cosby.voila davis as poitier wife Vanessa l williams cosby wife dave Chappell as bootney Farnsworth. Don chedla as 40th st. Black. Terrence Howard or Idris Alba as silky slim cedric entertainer as mac.

  • Donnadara | March 2, 2012 4:29 PM

    Given that it's Will Smith, don't be surprised if his leading lady is non-black, remake or not.

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