Have you noticed that non-romantic pairings of actors in Hollywood movies in recent years have largely followed the ‘big star/little star’ pattern? Mel Gibson and a young Robert Downey Jr. in Air America, Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett in Hollywood Homicide, Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg in 2 Guns – sometimes, it’s almost as if filmmakers are afraid the screen can’t hold more than one megastar at a time. Back in the day, we’d enjoy Robert Redford and Paul Newman together in the frame, or Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby. Now, Nicholas Stoller (Neighbors) and Adam McKay (Anchorman) are attempting to re-capture that level of mega-wattage by re-making the 1974 film, Uptown Saturday Night.
Originally written by Richard Wesley – the first screenplay by the successful playwright – Uptown Saturday Night was directed by Sidney Poitier, who also starred in the project alongside Bill Cosby and Harry Belafonte. With Poitier and Cosby as two friends, the film sees them attend a party at an uptown nightclub, which is then robbed. The next day, one of them discovers he has won the lottery, but that the ticket is in the wallet that was stolen during the hold-up. The pair then work to reclaim the wallet, the ticket, and the winnings.
The film was a success when it was released, and even spawned a TV pilot starring Cleavon Little and Adam Wade – although it never made it to air. The film, though, remains a well-regarded comedy classic, and the rights to its remake were secured by Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment production company in 2002, with a view to him starring in the film. Anchorman director Adam McKay became attached to the helm in 2012, and at that point, we first heard the other side of this all-important pairing: Denzel Washington.
That’s right. Will Smith and Denzel Washington – two of the biggest, most successful and legendary movie stars on the planet are looking to team up on this Adam McKay-directed, Nicholas Stoller-written, Will Smith-produced comedy film. Never mind the Robert De Niro/Al Pacino diner scene in Heat – I’m anticipating the screen actually bending, Matrix style, when Smith and Washington appear together on it.
So, what is the status of this project? Nicholas Stoller recently updated Collider, while promoting his latest directorial effort, Neighbors:
“It’s Will Smith and Denzel Washington. If it comes together it will be incredible. It seems like everyone’s pretty excited about the script. It’s a kind of movie that hasn’t been made in a long time, the premise is basically two working class guys go to this crazy party and the party gets held up, and then the next day one of the guys discovers that his wallet that was taken from him has a lottery ticket that won $100,000 or whatever. So it’s two idiots kind of—not idiots but bumbling guys, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, trying to get into a gang to get this wallet back. So that’s it, it’s pretty funny. There’s big action in it, but it’s more of like a—it’s fun, it’s really fun.
“…I think it’s more [‘can it come together?’]. Everyone’s excited about it, it seems like it’s moving in the right direction, and I will knock on wood on it. Because honestly, I just want to see it. Adam McKay is one of my comedy idols, and just to see him direct something that I had something to do with would be just awesome.”
Note the emphasis on “if it comes together.” This is by no means a done deal. There is currently no green light – possibly because Stoller doesn’t seem to have finished the script yet – but McKay has apparently indicated that he would like Uptown Saturday Night to be next on his slate.
So, tell us, did the release schedule for 2016 just get a little more phenomenally exciting?