Will Smith is in talks with Warner Bros. to star in the remake of The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 masterpiece about American outlaws in revolutionary Mexico. Smith’s Overbrook Studios would be co-producing the film with Jerry Weintraub, Smith’s collaborator on his remake of the Karate Kid.
Warner Bros. has been hoping to update the ferocious film for over a decade. The late Tony Scott had been developing a revised screenplay with Brian Helgeland, Academy Award winning scribe for LA Confidential and Mystic River, and writer/director of this summer’s 42. After Scott’s unexpected death, the production went into hiatus, and it is doubtful that Helgeland will be returning to the project.
The original The Wild Bunch was co-written by Peckinpah and was highly controversial for its elevated violence and ruthless revision of America’s vision of the Old West. Released in a time when the American public was being bombarded by shocking Vietnam War carnage on a daily basis, the film was simultaneously lauded and reviled. Peckinpah filmed each of the films two massacres in slow-motion, a nod to Japanese filmmaker (and Peckinpah inspiration), Akira Kurosawa. Peckinpah envisioned his outlaws as outdated samurai, their guns were their swords, and the images of the bloody bodies being sliced by bullets was a ballet of dramatic bloodshed.
William Holden starred in the original as Pike Bishop, the leader of a gang of outlaws who were out of touch, out of time, and out of an open frontier. Seeking to pull off one last score, the gang plans a robbery heist of the railroad stations’ payroll. Robert Ryan plays the antagonist Deke Thornton, Pike’s former partner, who has been released from Yuma prison to help capture Bishop and his gang in exchange for a full pardon.
After a bloody shoot-out, where innocent women and children are slaughtered and the railroad booty turns out to be a decoy, Pike and his gang cross the Rio Grande and take refuge in Mexico.
Ultimately caught with no escape between the corruption of a railroad tycoon and Mexican Federales, The Wild Bunch opt for a no-win victory with devastating losses.
The updated version will reportedly follow a disgraced DEA agent who assembles a team to go after a Mexican drug lord, and it is not clear how the new version would relate to its predecessor other than in title.