One of my favorite all time favorite movies is Arsenic & Old Lace ;made in 1944 and directed by the Legendary Frank Capra, it starred; Cary Grant ,Peter Loree Raymond Massey and a host of others.
It’s a screwball comedy about Mortimer Brewster, a drama critic ,who goes home to tell his aunts, who raised him, that he is getting married. While trying to break the news,he finds out that his aunts’ hobby; is killing lonely old men and burying them in the cellar. It gets worse.
In a remake savvy industry, i wonder what i would do, if i had the opportunity to remake this brilliant classic ,and how would i cast it.
Conventional wisdom would be to update the script to fit out “modern minds” but i beg to differ. Some of the jokes and pop culture references would have to be updated, but the original script could still be relevant for the 21st century,an update of the pop culture reference and in jokes and problem solved. The main focus would be casting the roles for this attempt at a brilliant production.
There are three way it could be cast in the event of a remake.
BRIT CAST,written by Richard Curtis
The original role of Mortimer Brewster would be played by
HUGH GRANT. With a string of comedic hits , he is perfect for the comedic gentle man that his namesake played. With his boyish charm he is perfect a a British lead for a Brit Film
The role of towering and intimidating Jonathan Brewster would be played by
VINNIE JONES, the star of Snatch , though some people doubt his thespian skills , he manages to bring a charming performance which people either love or hate, and opposite Hugh Grant it’s screen magic.
Dr Einstein formerly played by the brilliant Peter Loree would now be embodied by
JOHN HANNAH, another character who can play the lovable but annoying friend, he would be perfect to play Lorre’s former creepy scientist role, who accompanied the intimidating Jonathan. Pairing Hannah and Jones as a duo, with Hannah playing the alcoholic Dr Einstein on the run from the law .
The aunts formerly played by Jean Adair and Josephine Hull now played by
MAGGIE SMITH &PATRICIA ROUTLEDGE two British icons to play the aunts Abby and Martha Brewster sweet but deadly. I can see them fussing over Hugh, while turning around to serve spiked Elderberry wine. Routledge honed comedic skills, on the brilliant sitcom ,Keeping up appearances. Maggie Smith is a British icon, and no further exposition needed for her case.
RICKY GERVAIS would play Teddy the cuckoo who ran amok and thought he was Teddy Roosevelt, formerly played by John Alexander. The creator and star of The Office and Extras, a wonderful addition to an already brilliant cast. Naturally he would have to play a British historical character.
RACHAEL VEIZ would play the role of Brewster new bride Elaine, played formerly by Priscilla Lane
HOLLYWOOD CAST written by the Coen Brothers
I would cast
GEORGE CLOONEY in the role of Mortimer Brewster, he is the current only actor that reminds me of that aura and charm that Cary Grant exuded , his roles in “Ocean’s 11″ and “Oh Brother Where art Though” show he can play both straight charmer and goof-ball effortlessly ,much like Grant did.
BRAD GARRET in the role formerly played by Raymond Massey. Garret honed his comedy skills on TV sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond” and at a towering 6 ft 8 he perfectly embodies all that Jonathan Brewster needs to be.
JASON LEE, another comedic performer, who voiced Syndrome on the brilliant Brad Bird animation “The Incredibles“ and has honed comedic talents on Emmy Award winning My Name is Earl. He would be great as the wide eyed and dodgy Dr Einstein . He and Brad Garret supporting each other opposite classically handsome George Clooney, that ,would be a priceless trio.
KATY BATES & DORIS ROBERTS, both talented in comedic roles , Katy Bates has also played the psychotic role in the adaptation of Stephen King’s “Misery” and comedic roles in “About Schmidt” and Water Boy. Doris Roberts from hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. Both know how to play the fine line between nurturing and psychotic women, and Roberts already has chemistry with former co-star Garret.
PAUL GIAMATTI in the role of Teddy.The star of Oscar winning Sideways; Giamatti is both a brilliant comedic and dramatic actor,and would fit perfectly in this role.
MARISA TOMEI would be in the role of Elaine, a sweet brand new bride, planted in the middle of the madness of the Brewster family.
A complete alternative approach and turning the whole thing around in terms of casting, it could go the “Tyler Perry” way , casting: written by Christopher Scott Cherot(writer of Hav Plenty)
AFRICAN AMERICAN CAST
ORLANDO JONES or CHRIS TUCKER, playing the part of Mortimer Brewster ;going all out comedic, with the role. They both have the ability to play the ;rambunctious fast talking, wide eyed character, the way Cary Grant played it. They are both great comics that can also play it straight.
TOMMY “TINY” LISTER could play the role of menacing Jonathan Brewster. He already has chemistry with Tucker from their roles on the movie Friday .
DAVE CHAPPELLE would make an excellent Dr Einstein, and that is all i am going to say about it, his talent is ENORMOUS.
LORETTA DEVINE & ALOMA WRIGHT as the sweet yet homicidal aunts. Both have comedy backgrounds and have played nurturing roles.
REGINALD VEL JOHNSON, star of tv sitcom Family Matters and co star of the Die Hard series he would be a brilliant Teddy.
PAULA PATTON in the role of the new bride.
There are so many ways this can go, but ultimately there are some movies that should be left ALONE and appreciated in only their original glory. Though Arsenic& Old Lace is not at the top of peoples minds when classics are mentioned;nonetheless Frank Capra’s comedy of errors masterpiece, is a classic and should remain untouched .