Steven Soderbergh's No Brainer Idea For Remakes: Take On Movies That Didn't Work The First Time, Not Famous Films

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by Kevin Jagernauth
May 1, 2013 1:20 PM
20 Comments
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Pamela Gentile, courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society
Steven Soderbergh's address at the San Francisco International Film Festival is still making waves. Blaming the studios for the demise of cinema art and seriously calling into question a flawed decision-making process about which movies get made and which don't, we could probably write a few different pieces on various aspects of this half hour talk. (In case you missed it, you can read it about here and listen to or watch to the complete speech). But one aspect that stood out to us was Soderbergh's thoughts on the remake scourge gripping Hollywood.

Of course, we now live in a time when only five years elapsed between "Spider-Man 3" and the refreshed "The Amazing Spider-Man" and seemingly every property under the sun is ripe for being done over. However, Hollywood seems to favor properties that have already been successful, rather than taking an idea that maybe didn't quite work the first time, putting the right people on it, and knocking it out of the park a second time. Hell, this year alone we're getting do-overs: "The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty," "Carrie," "Oldboy," and we already got "Evil Dead" in theaters. Next week, "The Great Gatsby" goes for it's third time up on the big screen as well. And Soderbergh thinks it's near lunacy. Here's what he had to say:

I think there are too many layers of executives, I don't know why you should be having a lot of phone calls with people that can't actually make decisions. They'll violate their own rules on a whim, while they make you adhere to them. They get simple things wrong sometimes, like remakes. I mean, why are you always remaking the famous movies? Why aren't you looking back into your catalog and finding some sort of programmer that was made 50 years ago that has a really good idea in it, that if you put some fresh talent on it, it could be really great. Of course, in order to do that you need to have someone at the studio that actually knows those movies. Even if you don't have that person you could hire one. The sort of executive ecosystem is distorted, because executives don't get punished for making bombs the way that filmmakers do, and the result is there's no turnover of new ideas, there's no new ideas about how to approach the business or how to deal with talent or material.

So yeah, what he said. This seems like pretty simple straightforward thinking, but from a studio level, they are forever concerned with feeding audiences what they know, rather than trying something new. Do you think Soderbergh has it right? What do you think? Debate and discuss below.

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20 Comments

  • Scott Langford | May 3, 2013 9:25 AMReply

    I totally agree with Soderbergh. So much that I'm actually in pre-production for a film that pokes fun of this exact concept and follows first-time filmmakers attempting to remake Braveheart thinking it will yield automatic success like the original.
    Below is our site for more info.
    remakethemovie.com

  • rodie | May 2, 2013 3:41 PMReply

    People, he's talking about STUDIOS needing to be willing to remake more obscure movies that didn't work the first time. Obviously there are writers and directors who want to do such a thing, but those ideas don't get the greenlight. Yes Soderbergh remade Solaris and Oceans, but I guarantee he had/has other ideas for remakes that will never get financed because of the very problem he discusses in his talk. Sheesh.

  • Herry69 | May 2, 2013 8:12 AMReply

    the biggest problem in hollowood is useless jewish writers. remakes, sequalls, prequels... there is little originality left. hardly anything new. most that is new is garbage. this just means that the writers have super tiny little brains which are mostly empty anyway !

  • Nathan | May 4, 2013 7:08 AM

    I'll assume the "69" part of you username either refers to your IQ or the grade you received in grammar lessons.

  • Jeff Mclachlan | May 2, 2013 1:12 AMReply

    The thing is, if it's an old or foreign movie with a few good ideas that doesn't quite work, you don't need to remake it. You can just rip it off.

  • Duddi | May 1, 2013 7:43 PMReply

    This is my idea too. There is a lot of good material out there that it didn't work because of a bad script, bad director, bad actors and especially because certain studio want it on a certain way. So Steve i hope there are more people with influence like your that can push this idea. (and you can be the first one to do so).

  • Rob | May 1, 2013 4:37 PMReply

    I just hope some executives read/hear what Soderbergh is saying and think to themselves, "Maybe people do want something different," instead of what they are doing right now.

  • Serena | May 1, 2013 2:57 PMReply

    Since most remakes--and movies--come from sources like novels to begin with, a lot of "remakes" can be considered adaptations rather than remakes, especially THE GREAT GATSBY since far more people know the F. Scott Fitzgerald book than the 70s movie with Robert Redford and others. Kathryn Bigelow once said Douglas Sirk told her to adapt a flawed novel so you could improve on it rather than an already perfect one, which is basically what Soderbergh is saying.

  • Chris | May 1, 2013 2:16 PMReply

    Oh, and you guys, if you want to criticize Sodesy for cashing in with a remake, at least cite "Ocean's Eleven" rather than "Solaris." (Even his "Ocean's Eleven," though, is FAR superior to the Rat Pack version.)

  • George | May 1, 2013 2:01 PMReply

    1987 Caribe deserves a remakes. It's about a arms deal gone wrong and is set in belize. It has some beautiful location shots and stays pretty grounded with the plot. It does at times feel similar to romancinng the stone but clearly one of those films that screams remake.

  • jeff | May 1, 2013 1:50 PMReply

    solaris

  • hank | May 1, 2013 1:41 PMReply

    you forgot to mention that he's retiring in this article. he's retiring.

  • Tom | May 1, 2013 1:38 PMReply

    Hang on, I totally forgot that Soderbergh rehashed Solaris. I don't think that film was begging to be remade.

  • Alex @filmmisery | May 1, 2013 1:35 PMReply

    This is the man who remade 'Solaris.' That invalidates his statement right there.

  • Frank@gmail.com | May 1, 2013 3:21 PM

    "he never said that all remakes were inherently bad, or that all remakes of great movies were inherently bad." We have a winner, someone with a brain and someone who can actually READ and COGENTLY PARSE. Congrats. Thought this place was a cesspool for a second.

  • Chris | May 1, 2013 2:09 PM

    An absurd statement, Alex. First of all, he never said that all remakes were inherently bad, or that all remakes of great movies were inherently bad. The problem he was citing was the preponderance of rehashing famous brands AS A BUSINESS MODEL. Secondly (and more importantly), his remake of "Solaris" - like or loathe it - doesn't fit into the category he was describing. At ALL. It's not like some studio executive was sitting around thinking, "What do audiences want to see more of? Oooh, oooh, I know! A reboot of that contemplative 3-hour philosophical sci-fi movie from the '70s! That'll get 'em in the seats! Let's bleed that big-time brand name for all it's worth!" Rather, it was Soderbergh (and, before him, Cameron) who thought of his own way to re-interpret the material for a new film. Two completely different things.

  • SunPapushi | May 1, 2013 1:39 PM

    No, it doesn't. Remember the Ad hominem tu quoque.

  • Eric | May 1, 2013 1:39 PM

    I was just coming to say the same thing. But, I actually think he made a better film with his Solaris.

  • Tom | May 1, 2013 1:31 PMReply

    Sounds like a good idea to me.

  • alynch | May 1, 2013 1:26 PMReply

    The Great Gatsby would actually qualify for this since none of the previous attampts have really worked.

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