Posted on Thursday, June 5th, 2008 by Hunter Stephenson
“Do we not have a bell?”
Too bad John McCain’s not a grizzled, old indie director. Zing. Wild and crazy guys, Werner Herzog (above) and Abel Ferrara (right), are exchanging heated words and grumpy disses in regard to Herzog’s 2009 remake of Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant, with Nic Cage starring in the role once inhabited by Harvey Keitel. Whaaa happen? Well, Ferrara drew verbal first blood at Cannes by dreaming up a deranged hypothetical befitting a Slashfilm commenter’s luv for Brett Ratner…
“I wish these [Herzog and remake people] die in Hell. I hope they’re all in the same streetcar, and it blows up,” Ferrara told Spout.
As Ferrara said this, the hair in Don King’s ear twitched oh so slightly across the pond. This week Herzog responded to Ferrara’s fiery remarks with a “Who’s that?” battle strategy utilized by so many rap artists.
“Defamer: Have you talked to [Ferrara]?
Herzog: No. I have no idea who Abel Ferrara is. But let him fight the windmills, like Don Quixote. …I’ve never seen a film by him. I have no idea who he is. Is he Italian? Is he French? Who is he? …Maybe I could invite him to act in a movie! Except I don’t know what he looks like.”
Is “let him fight the windmills” the new “Nuke the Fridge”? Herzog also cops to not having viewed or even knowing much about the original film. In the past, Slashfilm and many of our readers have asked why this remake is needed. And it’s not the usual case of an exhausted, “Why Hollywood Whyyyy?!?” per se. Without question, Herzog is a talented guy (Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn, Aguirre), but how would he feel if someone remade one of his more personal films like Fitzcarraldo without bothering to see it or check in with him? Bad Lieutenant is Ferrara’s signature film (alongside his awesome The King of New York); it just seems uncouth. But here is what drew Herzog to the material…
“There’s an interesting screenplay; it’s a very, very dark story. It’s great because it seems to reflect a side of the collective psyche – sometimes there are just good times for film noir. …We have seen a lot of New York in movies; we have not seen New Orleans in feature films. Or very few feature films. After Katrina it’s a particularly interesting set-up. The neglect and politics after the hurricane struck are something quite amazing. It has to do with public morality.”
Switching the setting from the Rotten Apple to the Big Easy is intriguing to say the least, but that gives him even less reason to use the title; Ferrara’s is a cult classic, certainly, but the NC-17 flick’s name recognition amongst the mainstream is slight. Moreover, the title character’s name is different in the remake. The lone major link between the films is producer Edward R. Pressman. Who do you side with here? Herzog compares his film to a new actor taking over James Bond, but that doesn’t cut the mustard. I side with Ferrara, unless he goes through with real indie terrorism. Good exposure for all.
Discuss: Does Ferrara have a right to be aggro? Will this escalate? Do you have a fave director rivalry?