Will Smith Goes for Broke With Flowers For Algernon

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Now that the Smith / Spielberg version of Oldboy has reportedly died a well-deserved death (it’s like there’s a real version of The Box out there and some lucky Park Chan-Wook fan pushed the button — do something good with your million bucks, buddy, you earned it!) Will Smith will have to look for other ways to bridge the gap between mainstream success like I Am Legend and the critical praise one suspects he really desires. So, it’s come to this: Smith is reportedly looking to star in Flowers for Algernon.

The Playlist already took the obvious headline here (“Megastar Goes Full Retard”) so I’ll have to settle for relating the deal. Pajiba says that Smith is setting up an adaptation of the novel at Sony, where he’ll produce and star. Gabriele Muccino, director of Smith’s last two awards plays (Seven Pounds and The Pursuit of Happyness) may direct. If you’ll recall, the book started out as a short story in the late ’50s, and eventually spawned a film, Charly.

The story is a fairly serious bit of sci-fi on one hand, in which researchers have come up with a way to increase the intelligence of test subjects. On the other hand, it’s a fairly determined and unsubtle tearjerker. The mentally disabled Charlie becomes the first human test subject. (Don’t read the rest of this paragraph if you’re touchy about knowing what happens in a 40-year old novel you should already know the synopsis to.) Charlie’s intelligence increases massively, but then he realizes that the change will not be permanent. His life changes quite a lot thanks to his new intelligence — he loses his job and finally has experience with women, among other things — but eventually he’s right back where he started.

I just hope this new version retains both the sexual assault scene from the film Charly, and the couple of montages where the main character discovers freedom, sexuality and love. Those would be a good place to throw in a couple of songs to appeal to the cynical 20-somethings out there, so the movie can cover all the bases.

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