Mexican director Alfonso Arau (Like Water for Chocolate, A Walk in the Clouds) is to helm a remake of Orson Welles' classic film The Magnificent Ambersons.
The 1942 film tells the story of a stubborn man who loses his family fortune and social prominence through his unwillingness to change in the age of the automobile, and Arau plans to instill his remake with Welles' vision by using the great director's original 165-page script. During the filming of Ambersons, Welles was apparently appalled to discover on returning from a holiday that RKO Pictures executives had cut an hour of the film - and burned the excised footage, so that Welles could not fight to have it restored.
"The idea of a remake is absolutely fascinating and terrifying at the same time, because you risk criticism," acknowledged Arau. "But this is different. Welles didn't get to finish the movie himself, and the studio made changes he didn't like and left a work he hardly recognised. There's this fantasy that doing it the way he wanted it to be done would please him, wherever he is. It's a romantic thought, anyway."
Arau will embellish Welles' script with scenes from the 1918 Pulitzer Prize-winning Booth Tarkington novel from which Welles adapted his script. But the Mexican director intends putting his own stylistic stamp on the $16m project.
"I'm not planning to do a shot by shot reproduction like [Gus van Sant's] Psycho", he said. "I'm planning to take that original script and make a current film, a family drama with some humour," said Arau.
He will start casting the leads next week, and begin shooting in August on a turn-of-the-century Minneapolis set that has been constructed in Ireland.