Film: The second time around

If you could re-make a classic romantic comedy, which would you choose and who would play the lead roles? Charlotte O'Sullivan invites six film critics to play fantasy film-making
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The Independent Culture
HOLLYWOOD, IT'S generally agreed, used to do romantic comedies well and critics tend to howl when an old gem gets re-made. Hackles have already been raised with regards to You've Got Mail, a loose reworking of Ernst Lubitsch's The Shop Around the Corner. The cry goes up: "Oh they've ruined it! Oh they don't make stars like they used to!"

But who hasn't dreamt of revamping a favourite classic? I certainly have. If I were producer-for-a-day, I'd borrow Preston Sturges's much neglected The Lady Eve. In it, Barbara Stanwyck plays a card shark minx who takes a cruise with her wicked pop and, despite herself, falls for Henry Fonda's grimly innocent millionaire ("I live to fish"). Stanwyck would be replaced by indie star Parker Posey, a woman, like Stanwyck, whose cheek bones seem to have been chiselled by economic depression (Posey is also the only actress who could do justice to the wonderful "female orgasm" scene). Greg Kinnear - so anxiously wide-eyed in As Good As It Gets - would step neatly into Fonda's shoes.

What of the fussy critics, though? What old romantic comedies would they transform, and what stars would they use?

Anthony Quinn: I've always thought someone should do Preston Sturges's Sullivan's Travels (1941) because the ideas it explores - art vs commerce, the entertainment vs issue movie - are still fresh (see Spielberg's Amistad for details). So I'd set it in Nineties Hollywood and have John Cusack or Tim Robbins in the Joel McCrea part - Cusack's my favourite actor and Robbins has that tall, slightly lumbering, all-American quality.

Veronica Lake's part would go to Sharon Stone - she's never had a real shot at doing "funny". It's probably too late for her to do it, because she's in her early forties now, but I'd kindly give her a go.

Tom Charity, Time Out: I'd like to re-make William Wellman's Nothing Sacred (1937). It's a film about journalism, a subject still ripe for comedy - more so than ever, in fact. Instead of Carole Lombard and Fredric March, I'd have Janeane Garofalo - I loved her in The Truth about Cats & Dogs - and Kevin Spacey. Both of them have bite.

As for the director, (I am allowed a director, aren't I?), Garry Marshall would be my man. I know he did Beaches and Pretty Woman, but he's an underrated director of comedy in my opinion. But it's true, he can be a bit soft. Can I have a scriptwriter? If so, I'd have Elaine May on board. Trust me, this film will work.

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian's new critic: I'd want Roman Holiday (1953) because it's such a wonderfully romantic story. I'd re-make it with Will Smith in the Gregory Peck role - for me, Smith is the Gregory Peck of the 21st century, a bit of a lad, big-eared and lovable.

For the Princess, only Gwyneth Paltrow comes close to being as lovely as Audrey Hepburn. The film would still be set in Rome, because I'm into the whole Italian thing - and you could still have Vespa rides, because they're very trendy now. But the script would need updating: the Princess would be a quasi-British, quasi-Diana figure and Smith, instead of being a journalist, would be a stalkerazzo, a rat shooting video footage for the evening news. I'd abolish the Eddie Albert role and have Smith concealing a hi-tech, Sony cam in his tie, then watching it in his hotel the next day. He'd be gloating with his producer friends, but something in his heart would be dying.

Philip French, The Observer: I would love to see a re-make of Gone With the Wind (1939). It's very romantic and I've always found it funny. Nothing about the script would be changed, but the white characters would be played by black actors and vice versa. I'd have Angela Bassett as Scarlett O'Hara. Rhett would be played by Denzel Washington, Spike Lee could be Ashley Wilkes and Melanie would be Whoopi Goldberg. As for Mammie, I'd want that woman who was in Beaches. Bette Midler! That would be a very interesting twist.

Neil Norman, Evening Standard: I've got three: Roman Holiday - Irene Jacob and Robbie Coltrane - I'd love to see him doing proper romantic stuff. Pillow Talk (1959), with Anne Heche and Rupert Everett. And finally Ninotchka (1939) with Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas replaced by Gwyneth Paltrow and Leonardo DiCaprio, just to see how badly they fucked it up!

Alexander Walker, Evening Standard: I know exactly what film I'd re- make, because I've been recommending it to different producers over the years, hoping to get a finder's fee. It's a film people hardly remember, called It's Love I'm After (1937). It originally starred Bette Davis and Leslie Howard as a Broadway couple who resemble the Lunts, and hate each other - they perform Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet while hissing insults.

I'd have Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson in the leads. Gwyneth Paltrow could be the girl sighing her heart out over Branagh.

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