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Retrofitting Character

Last weekend, I think it was, I was channel surfing, and came upon Adam Sandler's THE LONGEST YARD about a third of the way in. Now, one of my favorite football games in film ever was the one in the original version of THE LONGEST YARD, so we decided to watch the rest of it. It was nicely done, with a lot of subtle acting -- who knew Chris Rock could be tamed? -- and sweet bits of character development. Really was impressed by the film -- but I told Newell I wished he could see the original, because it was one of my favorite movies.

Well, a few nights later, Burt Reynolds' version was on. And...uh...it didn't hold up to my memories of it at all. Of course, one problem was that it was on CMT, and they censored the most memorable line in the movie -- and if you have seen it uncut, you probably know the one I mean. It was my favorite line, so it was a bit of a let down... Of course, to be fair, I did not see the beginning of the remake, so I don't know what all the set up was...but boy, the '74 version looked dated.

But the most important difference was the characterizations. There were none in the '74 version. Okay, that's not strictly fair. The characters were flat, with little dimension, and what there was seemed stereotypical -- but that was the style chosen for a movie that was more about plot than character in a day when the style was fairly normal. However, my treasured memories of the film were rather blown away by the reality after all these years.

In the '05 remake, though the names of the characters were the same in many cases, with a lot of the same dialog, the subtle differences gave them life. And created some of the more interesting scenes too. For example, seeing the Con "Cheerleaders" only at the game in the original wasn't nearly as dynamic as seeing the boys who wanted to cheer begging for the chance and working on the details throughout the film.

Newell was personally very impressed with how much better Burt Reynolds was as an actor in the relatively minor role of Nate Scarborough than he was as the lead in the original. But again, that was his style in the '70s. In the new film, he was giving a character and not a star turn.

The reason that I am even writing this entry is because I was so blown away to see that you could indeed retrofit character into an old project. It's the thing that has me most excited about my revision of THE BLOOD THAT BINDS into THE LUCKLESS PRINCE. Flat characters without a lot of motivation in a more plot driven novel have been fleshed out with scenes allowing the introductions of more subtle development. Some characters that were almost walk-ons in the original now have importance to the overall arc. And a large handful of entirely new characters offer more depth to the novel as a whole.

I am really looking forward to folding in the final comments from the beta-readers and starting it out on the rounds. Hopefully by the end of the year. Though I am a bit tremulous about finding an agent...I have so many things in so many genres...can one person handle them all? Agent advice gratefully accepted!


Oct. 17th, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC)
This is much better than I expected when I started. It reaches several different levels for me.

Only minutes ago, I told you that I usually preferred the original versions, but, the way you've put it, I can see a lot of potential.

In my opinion, the making of movies has improved by hundredfolds since I began watching them in the late '30s. With few exceptions, seeing those 'classic' old movies now bores the hell out of me.

I did not think the original version of "The Longest Yard" was very memorable, and would probably not watch the remake unless I had no choice,.......BUT...what you wrote here stirred me up.

As you know already, I often have my best ideas after I've already showed my ignorance to the world. It is then that I begin to think what I could have said.

Re-telling a story could be the equivalent of a stage play (as opposed to a film), now that I think of it. Each telling can give a slightly, or even a significant new look at the same subject.

Willie C

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