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Archive for Thursday, April 11, 2002

Neil Labute, KU alumnus, must produce quicker ‘Wicker Man’

April 11, 2002

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— Oh, what a tangled web. It seems that Universal Picture's plans to remake the British horror film "The Wicker Man" have become interwoven with the similar designs of other cinematic craftsmen.

Universal has secured Kansas University alumnus Neil Labute ("Nurse Betty") to write and direct a remake of 1973 cult classic starring Nicolas Cage. But actor Christopher Lee ("The Lord of the Rings") and director Robin Hardy, part of the creative team that crafted the original picture, also plan to film their own remake.

In the original film, Lee played Lord Summerisle, the leader of a contemporary colony of pagans inhabiting a remote Scottish island. Directed by Hardy and written by Anthony Shaffer, "The Wicker Man" traces the descent of a self-righteous Christian policeman (Edward Woodward) as he's inexorably drawn into the cult's Bacchanalian rituals during his search for a missing schoolgirl.

LaBute's adaptation, however, will be set in present-day America with Cage taking over the Woodward role. Filmmaker Joe Berlinger ("Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2") was originally slated to direct the Universal remake, but was replaced by LaBute. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, co-producer Joanne Sellar said that Labute "has the ideal sensibility for this project," but Lee and Hardy disagree.

In a March 2, 2001, article published on the British Web site Ananova, Christopher Lee said that he's convinced a "Wicker Man" remake "wouldn't work" if set in the United States. A similar conviction has inspired Hardy to write a script for a different version of "The Wicker Man" titled "The Riding of the Laddie," which he plans to shoot on location near Glasgow, Scotland.

The team that finishes their remake first will be in a position to exploit the original film's basket-case fan base.

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