Posted on Tuesday, May 14th, 2013 by Russ Fischer
Is Will Smith looking to make up for balking at starring in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained by starring in a remake of one of the biggest landmarks in the Western canon? Smith has signed to produce and star in the remake of Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, which Warner Bros. has been trying to kickstart for a few years. That’s a piece of news that sounds pretty ridiculous, as the family-friendly guy who shied away fro Django is just about the last guy I’d expect to remake a film famous for its violence and adult themes.
(And yeah, let’s just get it out of the way: The Wild Wild Bunch. There, now we can move on.)
The Wrap reports that Smith will produce through Overbrook Productions, along with his The Karate Kid producing partner Jerry Weintraub. (The involvement of Weintraub gives me a slight glimmer of hope.) We don’t know who Smith will play, but we do have a few details about the plan for the film, which Brian Helgeland had partially scripted for Tony Scott before Scott’s death last year.
The original film followed a group of men led by Pike Bishop as they rob a railroad office and head south of the border, intending to retire on the spoils of their last score. But they run afoul of a local warlord and end up taking on one more job. Meanwhile, a man named Deke, Pike’s former partner, is on the trail of the bunch. Deke has been promised a pardon for his own crimes if he brings in Pike and his gang.
The new film is described as “a modern remake involving cartels south of the border,” which is “expected to follow a disgraced D.E.A. agent who assembles a team to go after a Mexican drug lord and his fortune.”
The first guess is that Smith would be playing a version of Pike, as that’s the lead. But he would be much better off as Deke, at least if the script is following the character set-ups of the original. That new synopsis suggests it is doing something a bit different — I wonder if it might be combining the Pike and Deke roles? That would be weird, and if that’s the case then The Wild Bunch will be a remake in name only. Then again, Peckinpah’s original film is such a specific document, and a thing that could only have come from Peckinpah, that this might be an “in name only” remake regardless.