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It took only 24 hours after Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round won the Oscar for best international feature April 25 before news of a remake broke. Appian Way, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson’s production company, together with Endeavor Content and Brad Weston’s Makeready, won the bidding war — beating out Jake Gyllenhaal and Riva Marker’s Nine Stories, as well as Elizabeth Banks, who was working with Universal Pictures — for the right to adapt Vinterberg’s Danish drinking dramedy into English. DiCaprio is eyed to star as a version of the character played by Mads Mikkelsen in the original: a high school history teacher who uses day-drinking as a means to escape his midlife crisis. Vinterberg gave his blessing and is on board to executive produce the remake, but the timing of the deal may have only encouraged gripes on social media from fans of the original.
U.S. adaptations of international hits are nothing new. Martin Scorsese won the Oscar for DiCaprio starrer The Departed, a remake of a Hong Kong crime thriller, Infernal Affairs. Sian Heder’s crowd-pleaser CODA, picked up by Apple TV in a record deal out of Sundance this year, is a faithful adaptation of the 2014 French film La Famille Bélier. But as global streamers give American audiences more access to non-English-language fare, and as film fans become more sensitive to issues of cultural appropriation, the U.S. remake has become a trickier business.
“This movie spoke to a lot of people worldwide. You can’t just take that, remove the subtitles, and tell the same story,” says Dan Guando, senior vp film development and production at Endeavor Content, who helped negotiate the Another Round deal. “With the much farther reach of international cinema now, we’re not interested in doing that and we can’t expect that no one saw the original film.”
The American version, says Endeavor Content’s senior vp film development and production Negeen Yazdi, will be a “re-imagining” of Vinterberg’s Oscar winner, not a shot-for-shot remake. Aspects of the film-specific to Denmark and the Danish society — like its morally neutral attitude toward excessive drinking — won’t be transferred onto the U.S. version without cultural modification.
More recently, there have been several international art house to American film misfires, including the Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell-starrer Downhill (based on the Swedish dramedy Force Majeure); the Vince Vaughn comedy Delivery Man (Ken Scott’s adaptation of his own Quebecois laugher Starbuck); and After the Wedding, a gender-flipped version of Susanne Bier’s Danish drama from 2006, with Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore in roles originally played by Mikkelsen and Rolf Lassgard.
“Art house films can be challenging to adapt because they often bear the signature of their director, and that can be difficult to transport [into another culture],” notes Martin Moszkowicz, executive chairman of German mini-major Constantin Film, which has scored hits with local-language versions of mainstream Italian and French comedies. “True cinematic art is very difficult to adapt.”
This may explain why so many international films optioned for remakes never get made. Paramount’s version of German Oscar nominee Toni Erdmann (2016), DreamWorks’ planned adaptation of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Like Father, Like Son (2013), or Tom Hanks’ U.S. take of A Man Called Ove, the Swedish sleeper from 2015, remain, as of this writing, in development hell.
Moszkowicz argues that high-concept films are often better suited for remakes, particularly if the original is not that well known or easily accessible via a global streaming platform. For example, 2019’s Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston comedy The Upside made $108 million in the U.S., where few had seen The Intouchables, the 2011 French film that Neil Burger’s movie was based on. Internationally, where The Intouchables was a monster hit ($426 million worldwide gross), The Upside earned just $17 million.
But never underestimate star power. DiCaprio’s involvement was what convinced Vinterberg to go with the Endeavor/ Makeready pitch. “Another Round with Leonardo DiCaprio is a sensational combination,” says Moszkowicz. “I can imagine a lot more people will want to see it, because of DiCaprio, who wouldn’t [ever] watch a Danish film.”
This story first appeared in the May 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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