Guest Post – A remake that’s actually worth seeing: Fahrenheit 451


Around mid 1990s, Mel Gibson pitched a remake of Fahrenheit 451 to Warner Bros. and they agreed to let him shoot it. Gibson had directed two films so far, The Man without a Face and Braveheart, he won an Oscar for the latter. So while in his directing mode he wanted to remake Fahrenheit 451 and at one point he was thinking of starring in it too. But he realized he was too old for the role and also because he already directed and starred on both Man without a Face and Braveheart, he just didn’t want to go through that again. So with a new script that stayed true to the book and the support from the studio, he was looking for a leading man. He pursued Tom Cruise around 1997 and he already had a team doing some pre-production work on set designs. The movie was going to be set 50 years in future. At the time, Cruise has just started shooting Eyes Wide Shutwith Stanley Kubrick and couldn’t commit to the project. So Gibson decided to wait for Cruise to finish shooting Kubrick’s film and he went and did Lethal Weapon 4 (the worst Lethal Weapon film IMO).

But when the shoot of Eyes Wide Shut went longer than expected, Gibson couldn’t wait for Cruise anymore because the studio had scheduled Fahrenheit 451 to come out in the summer of 2000 and also Cruise had committed to shooting Mission: Impossible 2 and Minority Report back to back. M:I-2 was supposed to come out summer 1999 and Minority Report in summer 2000. Of course as you all remembered, M:I-2 came out in summer 2000 and Minority Report in 2002, the long shoot of Eyes Wide Shut really cost Cruise a few of potential box office hits, with Enemy of the States and Fahrenheit 451 being two of them. I’ll come back to why I brought up Minority Report later in the story.

So around 1998, Gibson was under pressure to look for a new leading man and also he realized that he needed to update the script for modern day audience, this was the era when the internet was starting to dominate the world. The role was offered to Brad Pitt but he was not interested, opting to do The Fight Club instead with David Fincher. Rumor has it that Gibson even offered the role to Johnny Depp, but at the time Depp refused to do big budget studio films.  Remember this was few years before Pirates of the Caribbean. With no leading man and a script that still in need of some retooling, Gibson informed the studio that he cannot finish in time for the summer of 2000 release and the project was put on limbo a couple of years later. Warner Bros. just had a lot of troubles trying to remake a few movies back in the 90s (read about Tim Burton’s Superman here).

Frank Darabont

Fast forward to mid 2000s, the project landed on the hands of Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile), he rewrote the script and pitched it to the studio. He even got Tom Hanks to come on board to play the leading man. The studio executives were interested but they didn’t green light the project, yet. Darabont had a new film opening at the time, The Mist. I believe the studio executives wanted to see how that movie performs at the box office before giving Darabont $150 mil to shoot Fahrenheit 451. The Mist opened and it failed miserably at the box office and of course the executives pulled out of Fahrenheit 451. On top of that,  in late 2007 Tom Hanks decided to leave the project, leaving it without a leading man. Last I heard, Darabont is still shopping the script around Hollywood, hoping another studio will pick it up.

Personally I would love to see this remake on the big screen, I mean I Am Legend went through some hell before it finally hit the big screen, so hopefully we’ll see the new version of Fahrenheit 451 playing at the local cinemas real soon.

Now back as to why I brought up Minority Report, well Spielberg and Cruise were going to shoot this film around 1999, but because Cruise was stuck doing Eyes Wide Shut and he wanted to do M: I-2 right after, they had to reschedule. Also, Kubrick passed away in 1999, so Spielberg wanted to do AI: Artificial Intelligence to honor him. So when both Cruise and Spielberg finally got together to shoot Minority Report in 2001, Spielberg decided to bring the team that was building the sets for Fahrenheit 451 over to Minority Report. So if you’ve already seen that sci-fi movie, then you’ve seen what Gibson had envisioned for the look of Fahrenheit 451.

Have you seen the François Truffaut original? What do you think of this remake idea?

8 thoughts on “Guest Post – A remake that’s actually worth seeing: Fahrenheit 451

  1. I’ve seen the original, and it might be the only Truffaut “miss” out there. In the right hands, it could be re-made and re-made well.

    The issue with the original (for me) really boiled down to Truffaut trying too hard to smack the French New Wave imprint onto it. It occasionally popped up with something really incredible, but ultimately it was suffocating.

    1. Ted S.

      I agree, I hope Darabont can convince some studio to finance the remake.

      I also think the original suffered a lot from the lack of technology available at the time, some of the stuff that was written in book, they could never have filmed it back in those days. Now anything is possible.

  2. Vince

    I actually liked Truffaut’s version: probably because of Julie Christie who I thought was pretty good here. I agree that it seems claustrophobic – but this is probably more of Oskar Werner’s frigid performance than anything. It certainly made you feel you were in a police state the whole time you’re watching. But I can see how a properly done remake could really liven things up. Speaking of Ray Bradbury material, I just rewatched The Illustrated Man with Rod Steiger. Similar in tone but with looser performances.

  3. Rommert J. Casimir

    When I first saw Truffaut’s picture I was already working with computers and I wondered whether the real danger could be the changeover from permanent paper books to instantly changeable electronic data. With internet and E-books this danger should be clear to all and hence I think the picture should end with the book people making primitive printing and papermaking equiment instead of memorizing novels.

  4. voicemint

    Considering the budget for the original and technology available at the time, there were certainly some constraints like the difficulties in creating the mechanical hound. It was fortuitous that the SAFEGE test monorail was available and could be used for the film. The station house was seriously small and the firetruck did not look very robust at all. The movie gave the impression that this small fire station was the only one doing the extensive job of finding all the books.

    Anyway, I have serious doubts about the plausibility of creating a remake based on modern times. With the Internet and electronic books, how can you possibly track them all down?

    Also, there is one major fallacy to the way that Bradbury depicted the book problem. Language depends heavily upon the written word and it’s the most efficient way to communicate information. Articles and manuals are essential to understanding things. You can’t have picture books for everything!

    What the “new” Fahrenheit 451 would need to do is also cyber policing, tracking down anything written that is not an article, documentary, or manual, and dispensing with it. This needs to be done. If the premise for the new movie is to destroy and delete anything written, well… it’s just not believable and I’d never bother to see such a movie.

  5. Rommert J. Casimir

    There is no need to introduce modern ideas in a remake as the notion of the internet was already present in kahn and wieners 1967 book the year 2000. the conflict is not between words and pictures (a technological society should be based on words and formulas anyhow) but between the elctronic information under control of a cental authority and books owned by individuals. For the sake of simplicity cd-roms and memory sticks should be ignored. Typical examples of unreliable electronic information are screens that state the seventh commandment as “thou shalt regularly commit adultery” or that preident Lincoln was impeached for conferring American citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants. The opponents of such falsifications cannot rely on memory, but should have access to the printed word..However, except the police files and the behaviour of the book people few thing have to be changed in the remake

  6. Pingback: 100 Wonderful and Terrible Movies That Never Existed

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