FILM / The Small, Piercing Screen

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The Independent Culture
The producer Scott Rudin was driving home, singing the theme tune to The Addams Family, when his eldest son piped up: 'Gee, The Addams Family would make a great movie.' (See review of the sequel, opposite.) dollars 200m later, Lost in Space, Rawhide, The Flintstones, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Avengers and Bewitched are in, or are coming out of, the pipeline as hit-hungry studios realise that silver-screen remakes of tube cults grab not one audience but two: the originals' nostalgic viewers and trendy young things who want to know what all the fuss is about. No small-screen programme is safe from Hollywood (Steven Spielberg even has fresh plans for Dr Who), or, as it happens, from fans dreaming of remodelling their TV favourites into cinema epics fit for today. Could The Prisoner, Foodini and Pinhead, Match of the Day and Steptoe and Son translate into major league ticket sales? Read on . . .

Neil Mullarkey

Programme: The Prisoner (1967)

Reason: I'm obsessive about it. Torn between punk rock and A-levels, I was deeply affected by The Prisoner and its macabre sense of humour. Last Christmas my wife gave me one of those special black Prisoner jackets with the white piping. And I've even done a show at the Edinburgh Festival called I Am Not a Number, a homage to the series. The Prisoner was a damn good yarn. It was also a fine allegory of the struggle of the individual within society: whether or not to conform. If we are all non-conformist, then there is no society. It seemed to argue that life is a compromise between conforming and rebelling. The programme created a unique world. The whole concept was dreamt up by its leading actor, Patrick McGoohan. After his huge success in Danger Man, he took the idea to Lew Grade, who gave him the go-ahead. McGoohan was executive producer and he also wrote and directed several episodes. The key image was the penny farthing bicycle, which McGoohan saw as an ironic symbol of progress.

Casting: McGoohan wouldn't want to play it any more. So I should. Or Tommy Lee Jones. McGoohan thought there was more than enough sex elsewhere on TV, but you'd have to have it for a modern audience. I'd cast Irina Brook to play opposite me, or Sean Young for Tommy Lee Jones.

Director: McGoohan or Patrice Leconte (Monsieur Hire, Tango). He's got the right sensibility and sense of humour. Designers should be Ben Van Os and Jan Roelfs, who did Orlando.

Set Piece: The Prisoner makes a dramatic escape from the village. He hitches a ride with Alan Price and his band in the minibus they had in O Lucky Man and ends up staying in Noel Coward's hotel on the Isle of Capri. There's a huge chess game in progress in which all the pieces are real people. Alan Arkin and Joan Plowright will play the black King and Queen and the pawns will be played by brownies, cubs and girl guides. There are endless cameos for Gary Shandling, John Cusack, Michael Caine and others as various inmates who commit suicide in a whole variety of wild ways and apparently return to life.

Comedian Neil Mullarkey is writing a feature film, 'Funny How Love Is'

Howard Schuman

Series: Foodini and Pinhead (1950s)

Reason: Of course, I really don't approve of translating a work from one medium to another. What works in one medium may not work in another. But as an innocent child in Brooklyn I was entranced by this particular show, Foodini and Pinhead. It was about the adventures of a bumbling modern sorcerer and his naive and adoring sister. Frankly, I don't think anybody remembers this programme except me. You won't find it in any of the reference books. But I loved it. Quite apart from anything else there was something innocent and magical about the feel of Foodini and Pinhead. Looking back, I believe there was a covert gay relationship in the show which could, of course, be explored in much greater depth on the big screen. Film has got so much more potential, visually and dramatically, to delve beneath the surface.

Casting: Tom Hanks's excellent performance in Philadelphia, Jonathan Demme's upcoming Aids movie, is ideal preparation for the role of Foodini, the fit, healthy, active, gay sorcerer. With Brad Pitt playing opposite him, what more could you want? There's also great box office potential in the comedy housekeeper role: Doris Day. We'd be queuing up for her.

Director: It's high time Terence Davies (The Long Day Closes) developed the comedy side of his work. With Doris in it, he'd sign.

Set Piece: The pivotal scene, in which Foodini declares his love for Pinhead, has all the ingredients for one of the great, tender, erotic moments of screen history. It takes place in Foodini's magic grotto (where else?) and involves a lot of business with Foodini's fabulous magic wand which, as all viewers of the TV original will remember, allows you to express your innermost desires. The other important thing about turning this into a movie is that it has a unique merchandising angle: an unlimited range of Foodini and Pinhead bedroom accessories.

Howard Schuman is a screenwriter ('Selling Hitler'). He is shooting a new series of BBC2's 'Moving Pictures'.

Anthony Minghella

Programme: Match of the Day

Reason: I've rarely been as excited by a piece of fiction as I have been by a football match. It offers one of the most rewarding ways of spending 90 minutes - the ideal film length - that I can think of. You've also got a built-in interval in which to have a wee and buy merchandising. It makes perfect cinema because it observes the dramatic unities of time, place and action. The conventions of the game are already understood and sequels are guaranteed. The point about a sequel is that it should be the same, but different. We should recognise the story, but not the outcome. The films would be capable of combining farce and tragedy, brutal realism and breathtaking elegance . . .

It would be a return to the old studio system where they turned out a film a week. Stars were on contract and you went to see them regularly. Instead of going to see your favourite star, you go to see your favourite team.

It's truly cinematic - actions speak louder than words. It's on a scale not normally associated with British cinema. There's a ready-made audience. It's completely egalitarian. It crosses class, gender and race.

Casting: A European co-production because of the presence of Eric Cantona, the Gerard Depardieu of football, and the great Welsh player Ryan Giggs. Cantona's favourite author is Rimbaud; he's brooding, he's sexy, he's the star. Playing opposite them? Portsmouth have got serious box-office in England's Paul Walsh and Ireland's Alan McGlaughlin.

Director: Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige because of their direction and camerawork on Raise the Red Lantern and The Big Parade. Look at the way they handle the masses. Look at the control and organisation of colour. We might have to exhume Bob Fosse, though, to improve the quality of the crowd's musical numbers. The wit of the terraces runs to Where est Cantona or Who est Cantona.

Set Piece: No commentary. It's purely the event itself. The first film has to be Man Utd vs Portsmouth, because I'm a well-known Pompey fanatic.

Writer/ director Anthony Minghella ('Mr Wonderful') is working on a film for the Jim Henson Organisation

Bob Spiers

Series: Steptoe and Son (1964-73)

Reason: If I can't choose to do Absolutely Fabulous with the same cast and crew, Steptoe and Son is my easy choice. It was such a brilliant show; the two feature film spin-offs never quite did it justice. I loved it because two actors slugged it out with each other, week in, week out, with dialogue that was both properly comic and had wonderful pathos. It's a tricky mixture, building from pathos to big laughs. If they would agree to it, I'd keep Galton and Simpson as scriptwriters, not only for their use of language, but for their totally believable characterisation. Harold and old man Steptoe were recognisably grotty, yet the setting was never quite reality. It had the feel of, say, The Wednesday Play - it was dour. Unlike The Wednesday Play, it was seldom downbeat. Galton and Simpson gave it a working-class vitality.

Casting: Julian Clary as Harold, the Harry H Corbett part, and Rod Steiger as Albert, the Wilfred Brambell role. Why Julian Clary? Well, he's a very good actor. There would be - how can I put this? - a certain magnetism between Julian and Rod. The casting would add new dimensions to the relationship, even for those who couldn't believe that Rod spawned Julian.

Director: Stephen Frears (The Grifters, Dangerous Liaisons). He likes confined spaces; he'd be right at home. He's also British so he'd get the nuances. He also has a track record in America, so he'd get the finance too.

Set Piece: A chase sequence. With Julian on the horse and cart and Rod close behind on a moped, going hell for leather. On their trail are the builders of a proposed extension to the Westway fly-over. They want to put this huge, ugly, concrete extension smack in the middle of the Steptoe home. Julian and Rod have been fighting back. The last shot, however, would be of the extension coming through their roof.

Bob Spiers is the director of 'Absolutely Fabulous' (returns BBC1, January)

(Photographs omitted)

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