Universal’s long-gestating SCARFACE remake was dealt yet another blow — or was it? — when director David Ayer parted ways with the project on Wednesday.
Ayer (Suicide Squad) marked the latest director to exit Scarface, following in the footsteps of Pablo Larraín (Universal’s best hire so far) and Antoine Fuqua. Some of the Hollywood’s best and brightest writers have had a hand in the screenplay, including the Coen brothers, but nothing seems to be working. Ayer’s departure didn’t come as a huge surprise, as the idea of him directing a Coen brothers script seemed like an odd fit from the start, to say the least.
Diego Luna (Rogue One) is set to star in the remake — another column for another day! — which Universal hopes to start filming this fall in advance of an Aug. 10, 2018 release date.
Now, I won’t know pretend to know exactly what kind of movie the studio wants its Scarface remake to be, but clearly executives haven’t found a take they really love yet. And that’s OK! Universal knows this is an iconic character, and I’d rather see them do justice to the story than rush a movie into production if they aren’t on the same page as the filmmaker.
With the search on for a new director, here are some suggestions. Some are better than others.
The A-Listers – Michael Mann and Danny Boyle
What’s the deal with Michael Mann‘s Ferrari movie? Is it happening or not? Because if it can wait, wouldn’t that be an interesting movie? Michael Mann’s Scarface? Few do machismo like the director of Heat. Or what about Danny Boyle, once he wraps the FX series Trust? These are both far-fetched ideas, of course, but Mann and Boyle are two of the best in the business if you catch them on the right day.
The Auteur – Alejandro González Inárritu
Can you imagine? The Oscar-winning director of The Revenant, Birdman and Amores Perros tackling Scarface? Alejandro González Iñárritu just finished the VR short film Carne y Arena, which is about the immigrant experience. Besides The Godfather, what crime movie embodies that better than Scarface? Tony Montana is practically the ultimate movie immigrant. This would be quite a pairing, but I doubt the Movie Gods will be so kind… though keep in mind that Iñárritu worked with Luna before on Rudo y Cursi.
The Documentary Director – Matthew Heineman
Matthew Heineman is the director of Cartel Land, and he’s the real deal as far as documentary filmmakers go. I bet he’d have an interesting take on Scarface, because I’m pretty sure he’s seen some shit. Think about it…
The Comeback Kid – Nate Parker
I know, I know. Crazy, right? Never in a million years, right? But why? Nate Parker is going to direct another movie. He’s too talented not to, and Hollywood is too forgiving to keep him on the sidelines forever. Because talent talks in this town. Yes, I read the same transcripts as you. Ugly stuff, to be sure. Unforgivable? Quite possibly. But I think that, at some point, you have to separate the art from the artist, and truthfully, Parker is the kind of filmmaker who I believe could do justice to this story. The Birth of a Nation wasn’t without its flaws, but it was a bold debut that foreshadowed big things to come for Parker, if he has it in him to make a graceful comeback. It wouldn’t be without risk for Universal, but what a redemption tale that would be…
The Blossoming Brothers – The Safdies and The Dowdles
The Coen brothers have already written a draft of the Scarface script, so while I have no idea if the studio and its new director will use it, this project already has a thing for siblings. The Dowdles have been working their way up the ladder for years, and I’ve heard very good things about their Waco series starring Taylor Kitsch as David Koresh. Meanwhile, the Safdies have earned their indie cred the hard way with gritty films such as Heaven Knows What and Good Time, the Robert Pattinson movie that blasts into theaters next month. Those guys bring a lot of raw energy to the table. Don’t sleep on them.
The Solid “Names” – F. Gary Gray
Denis Villeneuve and Cary Fukunaga would both be awesome hires for very different reasons, but are they too busy with Dune and Maniac, respectively? It seems like Robert Rodriguez is pretty busy right now too. Gavin O’Connor, Scott Cooper and Mark Romanek would all be a strong fit for this darker material, while Universal has already worked with Daniel Espinosa on Safe House, as well as J.A. Bayona, who directed the studio’s 2018 summer tentpole Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. They’re from Sweden and Spain, respectively, so each could bring an outsider’s perspective to the American experience, as could Neill Blomkamp (Elysium, co-starring Luna!) from South Africa. However, none of them made Universal a billion dollars this year. F. Gary Gray is a solid director who made The Fate of the Furious and Straight Outta Compton for Universal, so he has a good relationship with its executives, who no doubt have their own idea of what the Scarface remake should be. Gray has proven he can cater to their collective vision.
The Dark Horses – Jonás Cuarón
I really liked what Brad Furman did with The Infiltrator last year, and I’m hoping for similar thrills from Ric Roman Waugh‘s Shot Caller when I see it next week. Ben Younger is another interesting director with a few features under his belt. Same with Ana Lily Amirpour. I may not have liked The Bad Batch (co-starring Luna!) but she certainly has a great eye, and could direct the hell out of someone else’s script. But you know who’d be really interesting? Jonás Cuarón, who did a solid job with his directorial debut Desierto. I feel like he could handle the pressure too. After all, Scarface is as important to Universal’s rich legacy as its classic monsters, and he co-wrote Gravity with his father.
The Indie Favorites – Andrew Neel
Jeremy Saulnier and David Robert Mitchell have bright futures behind the camera, and they’ve each wrapped their latest films, Hold the Dark and Under the Silver Lake, so theoretically, they’re both available and would be really cool choices. Greg Kwedar also impressed me with his little-seen border drama Transpecos, and I haven’t forgotten about Kyle Patrick Alvarez, who did a great job dramatizing The Stanford Prison Experiment. But call me crazy, the indie filmmaker who didn’t get the credit he deserved last year was Andrew Neel, the director of Goat. That was a movie about an outsider entering a world operating under its own set of rules, and when you think about it, that kind of applies to Scarface too.
The Foreign Filmmakers – Jean-François Richet
First of all, I think Scarface should be directed by someone from overseas. I’m not trying to discriminate against my fellow Americans, but I think this movie represents a real opportunity to say something about the immigrant experience. The original Scarface remake (yes, Brian DePalma and Al Pacino were remaking the 1932 Howard Hawks version), was a bit over-the-top, and while I have no clue what kind of movie Universal has in mind, I’d love to see an entertaining yet intense movie for adults that’s more akin to Traffic or Sicario.
Right off the bat, you have to consider South Korean filmmakers Park Chan-wook and Bong Joon-ho. They’d both be inspired choices, as would the Belgians (Michaël Roskam, Bullhead and Robin Pront, The Ardennes), the Frenchmen (Olivier Assayas, Carlos and Jacques Audiard, A Prophet) and the Israelis (Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, Big Bad Wolves). There’s also Damián Szifron (Wild Tales) from Argentina, Baran bo Odar (The Silence) from Switzerland, László Nemes (Son of Saul) from Hungary, Miroslav Shlaboshpytskiy (The Tribe) from Ukraine and perhaps most importantly, Gerardo Naranjo (Miss Bala, executive produced by Luna!) from Mexico (since Luna and the character are both Mexican). That’s a lot of choices! But… there’s another director who stands out.
Jean-François Richet is coming off the underrated indie Blood Father starring Mel Gibson — and Diego Luna!!! — and he has experience directing gangster films thanks to the epic two-part Mesrine movie starring Vincent Cassel. For the purposes of this job, he gets the nod over Assayas, whose work tends to be more hit-and-miss. But it’s a close call for sure…
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief