The veteran producer talks about the process of revisiting Wall Street for a “bookend” sequel and his plans for reinventing The Crow as a $70m tentpole.
For veteran producer Edward R Pressman, 2009 and 2010 have been a time of revisiting earlier work. Last year, Werner Herzog’s revamp of Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant (1992) had its world premiere at Venice, while this year Oliver Stone’s sequel to Wall Street (1987) called Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps had its world premiere in official selection at Cannes.
Sitting in a ground floor garden of The Carlton Hotel at Cannes, Pressman shrugs off the idea that he is mining old material. “Bad Lieutenant was a freak of circumstance and Werner made it his own and quite different,” chuckles Pressman, a famously gentle presence whose lofty credits encompass US classics like Sisters (1973), Badlands (1973), the Schwarzenegger Conan films and Blue Steel (1989). “Wall Street is more of a bookend. The best analogy is to look at The Colour Of Money in relation to The Hustler.”
The film was initiated in 2005 with Stone and his original Gordon Gekko, Michael Douglas, expressing an interest in it. Stephen Schiff and the original Wall Street screenwriter Stanley Weiser worked on a first draft and Schiff, Pressman and 20th Century Fox continued to develop it without Stone’s official attachment. In fact Stone then went off the project to work on W and South of The Border but his interest was resparked after the financial crisis of 2008.
“At that point, Alan Loeb came in as a new writer,” explains Pressman, adding that Loeb had personal experience as a stockbroker in Chicago before returning to the film world as the writer of 21. “Alex Young, an executive at Fox, introduced us to him and we hired him. His script really captured the time and re-engaged Oliver, who felt it now made sense for him to get involved. Oliver did a lot of work with Alan and Fox decided to go ahead with the film.”
Pressman notes that backing a major drama like the new Wall Street is uncharacteristic of the tentpole-driven studio which is more focused on Avatar and sequels to Alvin And The Chipmunks. “But they felt that the interest that Oliver created among the actors like Shia LaBeouf to join the project would bring a whole new audience to the film. The audience today which is 20 or younger don’t even remember Wall Street. It was 22 years ago.”
Ironically Stone found himself fighting Fox to cast Carey Mulligan in the key female role as LaBeouf’s fiancé and Gordon Gekko’s estranged daughter. Subsequently, of course, she won an Oscar nomination for best actress for An Education. “They are happy now,” Pressman notes with a smile.
Pressman meanwhile has a slew of new projects which belie his 67 years. He has reteamed with his American Psycho director Mary Harron on The Moth Diaries based on Rachel Klein’s cult novel set in an elite girls boarding school. Set to shoot this summer in Montreal with post-production in Dublin, the film will star Lily Cole, Sarah Bolger and Scott Speedman.
He and David Gordon Green are producing Splatter Sisters, a retro slasher movie written and to be directed by Adam Bhala Lough (Bomb The System) and to star Marilyn Manson and Evan Rachel Wood.
On a larger scale, he has teamed up with French uber-producer Alain Goldman and his Legende Films on a $40m biopic of Louis Armstrong called What A Wonderful World which will be directed by and star Forest Whitaker from a script he wrote with Ron Bass. “It’s a very ambitious and creative vision,” says Pressman. “Armstrong was so worldly and the film moves from New Orleans to Chicago to Paris to Africa. He really represented America in its best incarnation. Unlike the musicians at the heart of Ray or Walk The Line, his life was not drug-fuelled or about battles with demons. It’s more uplifting than that.”
And he is rebooting his Crow franchise with Stephen Norrington (Blade, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen) and Relativity Media in what is being planned as a $70m tentpole. “We are looking for a major actor in the lead,” he says. “It’s a total reinvention, not like Alex Proyas’ movie at all. Norrington has a very visual idea for the movie which is a reconceptualisation of the Crow mythology and closer to James O’Barr’s original comic book than the first film. We are on course to shoot this fall.”