Sunday morning Fox made an announcement followed by a press release stating they are co-producing, along with Dreamworks, a re-adaptation of Harvey. Attached to direct is Steven Spielberg.
Cue the remake backlash…
…especially with such a high profile director at the helm. Actually, a Harvey “remake” has been in the works for a while now. Some may be aware of writer Craig Mazin’s draft of the script from ’02. Fox 2000 acquired the rights to this particular project last year.
With Spielberg’s attachment and Sunday morning’s announcement, this current iteration of Harvey, scripted by writing teacher/novelist turned first time screenwriter Jonathan Tropper, is sure to make its way to theaters, especially if pre-production is to start right away as noted in the press release.
In addition to directing, Spielberg’s producing as well, along with Don Gregory. The Fox 2000 execs overseeing the project are Beth Gabler and Carla Hacken, who pushed the original play through development, ultimately landing Tropper’s script as next in line on Spielberg’s slate.
That Spielberg is choosing this to be his next film speaks volumes about the script. Credit goes to Tropper for writing, and Gabler and Hacken for babysitting the project through development.
Subsequent rewrites may be ordered, then production drafts, but hopefully Tropper will stay on as the writer. Should another writer come on board, while nothing out of the ordinary, it wouldn’t be the best news for those interested in seeing the project come to fruition. They’re set to start rolling in the new year.
Per Fox’s announcement, this will be a contemporary adaptation of Mary Chase’s original Pulitzer Prize-winning play from 1944, which ran for five years on Broadway with over 1700 performances. So this film’s more of a modern day re-adaptation of the original play than it is a remake of Henry Koster’s 1950 film, starring Jimmy Stewart and Josephine Hull, also scripted by Mary Chase. It isn’t being perceived that way though, nor should it. This is news not because the play is going to be re-adapted. This is news because Harvey is coming back to the big screen and Steven Spielberg is the man behind the rabbit, albeit an invisible one. Precisely why many are already claiming this as more evidence that Hollywood has run out of ideas, disregarding that the beloved Jimmy Stewart film was also an adaptation of Chase’s play, just like this film will be.
Should past Spielberg collaborator Tom Hanks, the Jimmy Stewart of the ’80s and ’90s, get cast in the lead role of Elwood P. Dowd, this train will pretty much have left the station. Possible signs of derailment may be subsequent writers being brought on, principle photography being pushed later past the first of the year, executives Gabler and/or Hacken departing Fox 2000 or just one of many other possible scenarios. Should Tom Hanks or another star of his caliber get attached to the lead role, there will be less chance of that happening.
Harvey’s a good movie; I saw it as a kid. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Jimmy Stewart stars as Elwood, a grown man with an imaginary friend, a six and a half foot tall rabbit. Consider it an early version of Lars and the Real Girl or a feel good Donnie Darko. The only bad news I see in this is that now we will have to differentiate between the Jimmy Stewart Harvey and the upcoming Spielberg version, but that’s a small price to pay for having this story brought back to the silver screen. Sure, the original film’s rights holder could always re-release the 1950 but it would hardly make business sense, considering not many would go out to see a 60 year old black and white film that they can already watch at home. At least not enough to justify the P&A budget of a re-release.
Last week, we weren’t talking about Harvey, this week we will be. Spielberg’s Harvey won’t replace the original but is already bringing it a lot more attention.