Feature by: Jack Foley
IT'S the obvious question... why remake a classic, particularly
one that's as close to the hearts of British film fans as The
And yet the answer is more than a little surprising, given that
both Mark Wahlberg and Chalize Theron did not know they were remaking
anything when they first received a copy of the script.
Speaking at the London press conference at Claridges Hotel, on
Monday (September 15), Wahlberg said that he only became aware
of Sir Michael Caine's 1969 original about 30 minutes after he
had read the new script.
But he immediately went out and acquired a copy of the film,
and even sent it to his father, such was his enjoyment of it.
"I loved it," he exclaimed. "The first thing
I did was send it to my dad, because he, as well as I, thought
we had seen every cool heist/caper movie ever made. So it was
great for me to be able turn him onto that.
"But I thought that given what they [the new writers] did
with this script, people, especially the die-hard fans, would
respond in a positive way, and really appreciate that we took
what we loved about the original and still tried to make our own
story while, at the same time, paying homage to the original."
Likewise Theron, who admitted that South Africa was 'so behind'
in movies, while she was growing up.
"I can't remember ever seeing an ending like that,"
she told me. "To me, it was one of the great classic endings.
"And like Mark just said, when we read the script, there
was a nice balance between not even trying to touch the brilliant
moments in the original and paying more attention to the things
that might not have worked so well, and ironing them out.
"I also liked that we didn't try and outdo the end, the
cliffhanger, or try and redo the car chase scenes in the original.
That's why I do like the word homage, because I think we all realised
why that movie was so loved and respected and just wanted to pay
homage to that."
Hence, whereas the original remains a cheeky, even kitsch little
movie, peppered with memorable moments and great lines, the remake
- or reinvention - goes for the opposite approach, in that it
is slick, fast-moving and contains so nods to blowing the bloody
And, for the most part, it works, remaining content to reference
the original through visual touches, such as the Minis, rather
than copying the story as well, a ploy which Wahlberg believes
may actually have helped the original, particularly in America.
"Now that our movie has been such a success in America,
and people are aware that there is an original, the original has
now fond a life of its own, which is nice," he observed.
For Wahlberg, especially, taking on the role of planner, Charlie
Croker, was a big challenge, particularly as he is aware of his
unofficial title of 'the king of the remakes', following recent
performances in Planet of the Apes and The Truth About Charlie.
"The last thing I wanted to do was go down that street again,"
he stressed. "But I felt the script was great, Gary [the
director] wanted to pay homage to the original, but also wanted
to do something very different, and I just thought that with the
opportunity of playing that type of role, and the rest of the
talent that this cast would attract, it would make for a really
American audiences certainly seemed to have lapped it up, given
that it was one of the 'sleeper' successes of the Summer, and
has even sparked talk of a franchise.
But UK audiences may still take some convincing, particularly
given the absence of Sir Michael Caine, who doesn't even appear
in cameo form, as is usually the case for a remake.
Sir Michael was asked, but was unable to accept the role that
had been earmarked for him due to other filming commitments, so
the producers turned to another screen veteran, Donald Sutherland,
So were Wahlberg and co disappointed?
"I wasn't disappointed, because Donald Sutherland was somebody
else I had grown up idolising," he explained. "It's
just that it would have been nice had Michael been able to do
Sutherland, however, made his own impression on the cast, as
the father figure of the group, whose murder early on provides
the driving motivation behind the team's desire to get even.
"Donald is an amazing guy," recalls Wahlberg. "I've
worked with a lot of older actors who force you to sit down and
listen to their stories.
"But Donald is one who I would pick his brain all the time.
He is a sweet guy and we had a very similar approach to the work,
in that it's not about him, it's about the story and the team
and working with that."
Theron agrees, even though her time with the actor was limited
to a mere phone call during the early part of the shoot, for which
she hadn't even expected him to be on the other end of the line.
"He was in Romania, doing Cold Mountain, and he had cleaned
out his entire day to be there for me, all day on the film, which
I thought was incredible," she said.
"Usually, you have the script supervisor on the other end
of the line, and I knew he was busy doing another film, so I really
didn't expect him to be there.
"In fact, I think very few actors would do that and I was
really impressed by that.
"And then I eventually got to meet him in Venice, and I
just remember him coming over to me and he just wrapped his arms
around me, before he even said anything, and hugged me like a
daughter, and I thought, it didn't get any better than this..."
It is clear from talking to the stars that a special bond exists
between the cast, which makes the prospect of a sequel, or even
a franchise, a very real possibility.
Wahlberg, who recently became a father, believes it is only a
question of finding the right material.
"It has been talked about, and I think we'd all be interested
if the material was as good as this.
"I know we all had a blast, and we all love and respect
each other and would certainly like to work with each other again,
so it's just a matter of someone coming up with a great story
And on that note, rather like leaving Michael Caine's boys at
the end of the original, we journalists headed back to our offices,
pondering what could yet be....