Posted on Tuesday, December 7th, 2010 by Russ Fischer
Oh, lord. In a story about Precious director Lee Daniels moving to CAA, I expected to find some indication of whether his next film would indeed be The Butler for Sony, or if he might actually make Selma, the film he worked to get off the ground for much of this year. It’s still looking like The Butler will be his next. But there’s another tidbit in there, too: the director is attached to remake Frederico Fellini‘s Nights of Cabiria. What?
Deadline doesn’t offer much more than a single note about the attachment, so we don’t know if he might write a new version of the screenplay or if someone else is on board. (The original film had Fellini, Ennio Flaiano and Tullio Pinelli as writers, but Pier Paolo Pasolini also worked on the script. And Nino Rota did the score. Beat that lineup.)
The 1957 film starred Fellini’s wife Giulietta Masina as a spirited but naive prostitute who navigates a couple of doomed relationships in between plying her trade. It’s a gorgeous film, and a devastating one. Giulietta Masina is simply perfect for the role as she displays a range of emotions from the most simple, pure hope to utter despair. (Expect Carey Mulligan’s name to be bandied about as a replacement any moment now.)
Nights of Cabiria has already been remade, at least in a way: the musical Sweet Charity was based on the original script for the film. That stage musical and film adaptation also had quite a talent lineup, including Neil Simon, Bob Fosse and Shirley MacLaine.
But Lee Daniels couldn’t be more wrong for a new version that directly remakes Nights of Cabiria. His visual command isn’t at all up to the standard set by Fellini, and while he works well with actors (there’s no argument that Precious has some great performances) I’m not at all confident that he can deal with the material at hand without getting overblown and maudlin. (Fellini, of course, could also go overblown, but not so much here. And even when he did, he usually retained a grounded emotional core that kept things from getting too far out of hand.) But who knows — there could easily be some Sweet Charity style reworking at play here, if the film is really even destined to happen at all.
Here’s a trailer for the original Nights of Cabiria: