Hot off the film-festival hit Bronson, director Nicolas Winding Refn is entertaining a few Hollywood offers, including a remake of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for Universal. Whether that becomes Refn's next film or not, he filled in a group of reporters on the direction of the remake when he gave an interview last Friday in Hollywood. Here's how he sees a new version of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson story.
1. Make it with Keanu Reeves. Refn said that he'd cast Reeves and that he'd also make this Jekyll/Hyde American.
2. Set it in modern-day America. Stevenson's "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" was published in 1886, and most adaptations stuck to a period tale in London. Not so Refn. "They want to do a modern-day retelling of the same story, which makes it very tricky, because it suddenly elevates the project into something more demanding," Refn said.
3. Base it on real science. Traditional images of the Jekyll/Hyde myth have the doctor swallowing colorful potions to morph into the monstrous Hyde. That won't fly in 2010. "You have a lot of credibility that needs to work," Refn said. "You can't just say things, because we all know you can just Google it, and it will tell you something. They can even Google as they're watching it and know if it's true or not."
4. Amp up the thrills and chills. The traditional Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde stories focus on the scares of Hyde, and sometimes the romance Jekyll tries to maintain despite his monstrous alter ago. With Reeves, the filmmakers may have to action it up. "It's a thriller kind of concept, but what's difficult with Jekyll and Hyde is that it's a concept more than anything else," Refn said. "It's like a werewolf movie or American Psycho. It's the thing we all have, but how do you dramatize that in a new, interesting way?"
5. Bring in a modern screenwriter. Stevenson's story has been adapted by acclaimed writers before. Christopher Hampton wrote Mary Reilly. Universal's remake comes from Revolutionary Road adapter Justin Haythe. "I was asked, but felt that I wasn't the right one," Refn said. "Also, with all the other stuff I had going on, I was almost so overwhelmed that I felt that I wouldn't probably give it the right attention."
6. Hire Stanley Kubrick's director of photography. Jekylls and Hydes have appeared in silent film, black and white, color and television. Refn wants to kick the visual depiction of the story up a notch. "I'd very much prefer to work with Larry Smith, who did Bronson as well and had done 30 years with Kubrick, so he certainly knew his vocabulary very well," Refn said. "Also, he's very good at understanding I'm color-blind, so I can only watch contrast colors. That's why everything's very contrasted whenever I do a movie. I very much like to work with him. And also, because I don't do storyboards, I don't pre-plan. I mean, look, I find locations, but it's not until I come in the morning that I start to figure out how to do it. I'm not the kind of person who sits down beforehand, and that's probably why I've always been reluctant to work with CGI, because every time you do that, you have to come up with all these preconceived visions."