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Another (White) Writer Hired To Pen 'Uptown Saturday Night' Remake Script (Scribe Carousel Continues)

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act November 2, 2012 at 8:25PM

It's been 10 years since this project entered development limbo, although the jam-packed schedules of Will Smith and Denzel Washington over the years, likely haven't helped either.
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Uptown

It's been 10 years since this project entered development limbo, although the jam-packed schedules of Will Smith and Denzel Washington over the years, likely haven't helped either.

Some day, it'll eventually happen.

Recapping...

Years ago, Will Smith expressed interest in remaking the Sidney Poitier/Bill Cosby 70s film, Uptown Saturday Night, in what sounded like a possible all-star African American Ocean’s Eleven-style romp, starring Smith, Washington, and, potentially Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, and others who were said to be part of the conversation. 

It seemed like it would be a go about a year ago, when Warner Bros and Smith's Overbrook Entertainment brought on comedy writer Tim Dowling to rewrite the Uptown Saturday Night script (at the time, the most recent draft was penned by Cop Out’s Mark and Robb Cullen).

It looked like the project would surely happen, when David Dobkin (Who? Oh yeah, the guy who directed Shanghai Knights and Wedding Crashers) was attached to direct.

Some months later, an update stated that writer Tim Dowling (This Means War) had finished and turned in his draft of the script.

At the time, 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."

And finally, earlier this year, in the spring, it was announced that, apparently David Dobkin had been replaced by Adam McKay (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy), in the director's chair, and the production was expected to begin in 2013, for a 2014 release.

Skip ahead to today, to a new report from Variety that says a new writer has been hired to work on the script; yes, another one! Here's what the report states:

Warner Bros. and Overbrook are still hoping to get a remake of "Uptown Saturday Night" off the ground, as the studio has hired Jeff Shakoor to write the script for the project.

Who is Jeff Shakoor, you're probably asking? I had to look him up. His IMDBPro page lists a 2012 comedy feature he wrote and directed called Apples and Oranges, which he also stars in by the way.

The only other feature film listed on his resume is a drama called 2ND Take, which he wrote, but didn't direct, and stars Tom Everett Scott and Sarah Jones.

Heard of either of those films? Not me. But I'm sure they're great!

And Shakoor is white, by the way.

I'm sure you know where I'm going with this, because I've said before, and I'm going to say it again!

It's just baffling to me that throughout all these flip-flops of writers and directors, not one of the names mentioned is African American. Jeff Shakoor? You mean to tell me that of all the capable black writers in Hollywood, and even in outside of it (in terms of indie filmmakers), there isn't a single one who could tackle this project?

Seriously, no disrespect to Jeff Shakoor, but 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 more than a serviceable job with the project! We lament the fact that black talent (in front of and behind the camera) isn't cultivated within the Hollywood studio system, and here's a perfect opportunity for Hollywood's most powerful black figures to affect change by giving this opportunity to a talented black writer, and instead the job goes to a white writer with just 2 indie credits on his resume (films that nobody has seen). How often would a black writer with 2 *unknown* credits on their resume, get the opportunity to work on a project this high profile?

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

Of course I'm assuming that Will Smith and Denzel Washington, individually or combined, are powerful enough in this industry to have some influence on who gets to write and/direct films they are involved with. 

Am I wrong about that, and this is strictly a studio decision, and neither Will nor Denzel (specifically Will, since Overbrook Entertainment, his company, is producing it), have absolutely no say here whatsoever?

Obviously, I'm not in privy to their phone conversations and meetings, so I have no idea how these decisions were reached. All I can go on is what's in front of me.

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

Stay tuned…


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