3 reasons why Luca Guadagnino is perfect for remaking Scarface
Say hello to big shoes to fill - Call Me by Your Name and Suspiria (2018) filmmaker Luca Guadagnino will take the director’s chair on the dormant Scarface remake. It’s an unexpected choice, as the man behind an idyllic love story and a violent arthouse horror, might not seem like the ideal candidate to helm a remake of a gangster classic.
However, these films show us why he’s the perfect choice: it requires a certain skill set to be able to capture the happy subtlety of romance, only to then switch entirely to the angry overload of horror. The two films still hold some of the same artistic flourishes, but on paper, they’re completely different.
So, what in Guadagnino’s flexible filmography suggests that he could adapt his style once more into a cocaine-filled crime epic like Scarface? Having recently revisited Call Me by Your Name and Suspiria, I believe I have the answers.
1: He’s familiar with the remake, but knows how to make it stand out
Suspiria, for those of you that don’t already know, is a revision of an Italian film by Dario Argento. This provides a good basis for Guadagnino to take on Scarface, as he’s already been in the process of translating an original property into a new piece. There’s a key difference though: Suspiria from 2018 is a completely different beast to Suspiria from 1977, and this is what makes Guadagnino an exciting prospect for a Scarface remake.
Not your standard remake - Guadagnino's Suspiria shows how the director can change elements of an old story (left) to create something new (right)
Firstly, comparing the two Suspiria adaptations, there’s the overall change in focus. Argento was more fascinated in the manipulation of visuals, while Guadagnino is obsessed with the story, deliberately framing it around the backdrop of a remorseful postwar Germany. Then there’s the visual differences themselves: Argento’s film appears in famously exaggerated colours, while Guadagnino’s goes for a greyer look.
So, what does this mean? It means that, unlike many of the remakes being made by Hollywood these days, Guadagnino isn’t afraid to bring new flavour and texture to familiar films. He expands on the original while refocusing and re-engaging audiences, unlike films like Favreau’s The Lion King that simply seek to replicate. This means that we’ll still be able to enjoy Brian De Palma/Al Pacino’s masterwork, whilst also indulging in a distinctive take on the tale of Tony Montana.
2: He’s not a commercial director, so he won’t play by the rules
It’s a deliberate move to contrast Guadagnino’s films to recent Hollywood remakes as these popular movies are samey for a reason: they have to play it safe. So, if we’re going to have a remake of Scarface, not only should it stand out, but it should challenge us as well.
Positive change - Guadagnino knows how to switch the way we expect stories to play out, in an enjoyable way
Guadagnino is no stranger to playing around with style, form and storytelling. Take Call Me by Your Name. The gay love story has often been trapped in the narrative of the forbidden romance: Brokeback Mountain, Carol, even Milk to some extent, despite it being a true story. Yet, Call Me by Your Name chooses to unravel its characters’ sexuality as a positive discovery, rather than something shocking. Guadagnino achieves this by how he frames the narrative against the picturesque Italian backdrop, with scenes often filled with golden light and people simply enjoying themselves.
If you’re going to remake Scarface, get a director like Guadagnino to change the way we see this story or even genre. Give us a new perspective. Alter the moral of the story to reflect our times. Change the style in a way that we don’t expect but that serves the story. When you think of this and the two films we’ve discussed so far, Guadagnino is the man for the job.
3: He works closely with his actors, which is key when dealing with intense roles
Close colleagues - Guadagnino with Tilda Swinton, who have collaborated on four films together
Despite appearing in The Godfather, Al Pacino’s most famous role is still Tony Montana. Whoever takes his place will be taking a huge risk. However, Guadagnino will be a relaxing presence, for us and for the actor, as he has a history of giving his actors breathing room to experiment. This is essential to making this remake stand out, which is such a key point.
Take a great story during the making of Call Me by Your Name. Stars Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet recalled a rehearsal of an intimate scene in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres. To cut the story short but sweet, after giving them some direction on making the scene's kiss feel real, Guadagnino snuck off while the two were mid-embrace, to try and give the actors that real, unwatched feeling.
So, we can rest assured that the role of Tony Montana won’t be butchered by someone replicating Pacino’s aggressive take. Guadagnino will undoubtedly help the actor through the role while giving them the space to get the best out of a new interpretation.
Luca Guadagnino might not be our first pick to direct a new Scarface, but he is the ideal pick when you consider how his versatility can create a new and exciting experience. From revisions of familiar stories to an entirely new take on a classic, Guadagnino always pokes at the rules in his creations, whilst giving his actors the chance to shine in roles that would otherwise prove too familiar to viewers.
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