Johnny Depp’s “Thin Man” remake

It was announced a while ago (see The Guardian‘s story here) that Johnny Depp will star in a film of Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man (1934), the lightweight detective story that effectively ended the great writer’s brief career as a novelist but which became hugely popular as a movie series in the 30s and 40s with the combined star wattage of William Powell and Myrna Loy as husband and wife sleuths Nick and Nora Charles. The roles have since then also been played on TV by Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk (in the 1950s) and by Craig Stevens and Jo Ann Pflug in a 1975 TV-Movie pilot. Hart to Hart with Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers was according to the credits ‘created’ by Sidney Sheldon, but to all intents and purposes was an unauthorised remake.

News has now been released David Koepp is set to write the screenplay, as reported over at Deadline Hollywood (which you can read here). Koepp is one of Hollywood’s busiest and most successful screenwriters, having worked several times with such major filmmakers as Steven Spielberg (four times), Brian de Palma (3 times including Carlito’s Way), Ron Howard (twice). He was also the sole credited writer of the first Spider Man film starring Tobey Maguire (after several failed attempts, including one by James Cameron) and his original screenplay Panic Room became a classy thriller starring Jodie Foster and was directed by David Fincher. Is this good news? Well, Koepp also did the script for the 1930s-set The Shadow (1994), from the classic radio character, which was quite amusing and camp but which failed to find a large enough audience. He tends to specialise in the well-made traditional Hollywood movie, but when adapting pre-existing material (such as novels by Stephen King and Richard Matheson as well as the Mission: Impossible TV series) has also shown that he is usually very respectful of the original source.

Depp is a huge star now, and with Rob Marshall on board to direct (they just did the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film together), it looks like this will definitely get produced. Depp hasn’t made many popular films which see him as a conventional romantic leading man, so it will be intriguing to see if he can become part of a domestic detective duo, or if the tone will be altered to suit his more eccentric charms … we shall see.

In the meantime, the Powell and Loy versions are all out on DVD and always worth a look, especially the first four which were all made by the teams of writers Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, director WS Van Dyke and producer Hunt Stromberg. A witty trailer for the first of the series, trading on Powell’s previous success as Philo Vance, can be found here: http://youtu.be/nSNJ-8ouQEM

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30 Responses to Johnny Depp’s “Thin Man” remake

  1. Yvette says:

    Something tells me this will be good. Of course it all depends on who will play Nora. Hopefully not Katheryn Heigl or one of the other starlet clones. I read that Depp wanted Rachel Weisz (a great choice) but that she was unavailable due to scheduling.

    • Hi Yvette – I have a fairly high tolerance for remakes, especially if they are really good like OCEAN’S ELEVEN for instance – but the interplay between the leads is crucial – I mean, really, who cares whodunit? What about Tina Fey – too brainy?

      • Yvette says:

        Oh talk about great minds, Rick. I too had thought of Tina Fey and posted about her when I initially talked about the remake a while back. I think she would be GREAT!

      • Patti says:

        No not to brainy Phyllis Kirk was very brainy and she was the best Nora ever

        • Hi Patti – I’m definitely a Myrna Loy man myself.

          • Patti says:

            Hi I totally respect that they were two different women and two different Nora’s.

          • Quite right – and frankly I think the TV show at its best was probably better than the last couple of the Powell and Loy entries in the series.

          • Patti says:

            I really to be fair, should watch a thin man movie all the way through. I may have a different opinion.however I truly doubt it that’s how much of a fan I am of Kirk & Lawford

          • I think the first two of the Loy and Powell series, The Thin Man (1934) and After the Thin Man (1936), are genuine high points of the mystery / screwball genre of the 1930s and early 40s – on top of which they are great Christmas and New Year movies (respectively), so this would be the perfect season to get acquainted!

  2. John says:

    Let us hope that this Depp/Koepp pairing will be better than their last teaming together which gave us THE SECRET WINDOW. Ugh. I’ll watch Depp in anything, even when it tends to be eyeball-rollingly hammy or — in the case of THE SECRET WINDOW — farfetched and contrived. As for conventional romantic lead I can point you to CHOCOLAT for a role where he was about the sexiest he has ever been on screen. DON JUAN DE MARCO may count here too though admittedly that was very unconventional as his character was under a delusion. In checking his credits at imdb.com I see he is currently filming a version of Dark Shadows</I< with Tim Burton as director and Depp as the vampire Barnabas Collins. That might be quite a hoot!

    • Hiya John – I quite liked SECRET WINDOW in its predictable, over-the-top way, and it’s pretty faithful to the King novella, but I wouldn’t make too great claims for it either. I always thought of the CHOCOLAT as a supporting role in a way, which is why i am really curious to see what happens with THIN MAN – how about Helena Bonham Carter as Nora? I should have solicited suggestions / speculations on the female lead in my post …

  3. John says:

    Good pick for Nora. And if Burton was involved she’d be a shoo-in, right? I’d go for Emily Blunt among the British actresses in the right age bracket. She may be a little young but could pull it off. Kate WInslet, too. Depp and Winslet – very interesting pairing there. Hard to think of someone Myrna Loyish among the current crop of US actresses. Is Amy Adams too pixie-ish? I think she has the stuff for Nora. People tend not to think of her for harder edged, trenchant wit roles. Someone mentioned Anne Hathaway on Yvette’s bog a while back. She’s got those 30s – 40s looks for sure. The style? Maybe.

    • Anne Hathaway seems to be flavour of the month doesn’t she? Winslet was good opposite Depp in FINDING NEVERLAND and at least is nearer to his age – Julia Roberts probably would have been the obvious choice a few years ago. Cate Blanchette perhaps? More Katharine Hepburn than Myrna Loy, I grant you. Just as long as it isn’t Angelina Jolie or Nicole Kidman!

  4. Ela says:

    I think it depends on whether they’re doing a re-make of the Powell-Loy film, or an adaptation of Hammett’s novel, since they’re quite different. I read The Thin Man not so long ago – Nick is quite a bit older than Nora (she’s in her mid-twenties, and he’s about forty, I think), but the actress playing Nora has to seem credibly older than Dorothy, who is very young. Also, Nick is not at all suave, in the book – quite unlike William Powell!

  5. Yvette says:

    Sorry, Sergio. Color me embarrassed. Forget I ever mentioned ‘Rick’. Hey, I’m an old lady. I get confused. :)

  6. I watch the Thin Man movies — all of them — at least once a year. I am a fan of Johnny Depp. I’m usually a little wary of remakes, but genuinely look forward to this one. However, I’d like to know more about how the novel contributed to the end of Hammett’s career. Thanks for a great posting.

    • Hi Ronald, thanks very much for reading.

      From the various biographies of Hammett by Johnson, Nolan and Symons, it seems that the success of the THIN MAN, a book deliberately written in a lighter, more commercial vein when compared with his previous novels, especially at the movies, effectively stymied Hammett’s increasingly unsuccessful attempts to write any more literary fiction, not least because he was busy spending the large amounts of money he was getting from Hollywood drinking and gambling. Immediately after the publication of THE THIN MAN he worked on scripts, including storylines for the first two THIN MAN sequels, but no more novels – and apart from a few shorter works that seems to have been it.

      I don’t mean to suggest that in a simplistic way THE THIN MAN ended his career as a novelist, though obviously it signals the end of his being published; I do think he got derailed (or any way distracted) by the immediate influx of cash – then came the war, in which he served with distinction despite his age and ill health; by the time that ended, he hadn’t published anything new for a decade and before long he was blacklisted for having left-wing affiliations and so effectively was unable to make a living as a writer anyway. On top of which, he was hit with a massive bill from the IRS which of course he could now lo longer hope to meet as he was unable to make a living in that even his residuals, which largely dried up of course, would be garnished by the government that during the late 40s and 50s so assiduously punished those with sympathies for the Left.

  7. Patti says:

    Well I guess a remake of the thin man will be fun.I am a big fan of the tv showand will definitely go and see it also get the DVD for my collection.Johnny Depp will probably do ok as Nick, but good luck trying to fill Phyllis Kirks shoes. This will be interesting.

  8. Patti says:

    Can any one tell me how many thin man books there are? After reading all the above posts my favorite is Helena Bonham Carter. Never seen her work but in my opinion she has the look,well of my favorite Nora anyway

    • Hi Patti – well, strictly speaking, there is just the one book, the original 1934 novel. Hammett abandoned an earlier draft of the book, which has since been published but as ‘The First Thin Man’ and doesn’t feature Nick Charles but rather a character named ‘John Guild’, a name used for a secondary character in the eventual book. He also wrote a prose treatment for the first movie sequel, After the Thin Man, and this has also been published, albeit not until the mid 1980s. The movies are: The Thin Man (1934), After the Thin Man (1936), Another Thin Man (1939), Shadow of the Thin Man (1941), The Thin Man Goes Home (1945) and Song of the Thin Man (1947).

      • Patti says:

        Thank you I guess the one I have is the one you are talking about. I got the first thin man movie and will watch this weekend. Then I will make my comparison. Thanks again patti
        H

        • Can’t wait to hear what you think – all the best,
          Sergio

          • Patti says:

            Ok sergio. Here goes I watched the thin movie. The beginning was let’s say different I didn’t care for the excessive drinking. I don’t think it was necessary. But as the movie progresses and Nick got into solving the case and seemed sober I enjoyed the rest of the movie. However the chemistry between Kirk and Lawford far exceeds that of Powell and Loy. That is my opinion Isn’t that what makes the world go round opinions? Thank you. Patti

          • Hi Patti, that is most definitely what makes the world go round! I love the chemistry between Powell and Loy (like in that great moment when Loy finds a woman in Powell’s arms and just wrinkles her nose at him) so I think we’ll have to agree to disagree. I am a complete non-drinker (under any circumstances) but I always saw it as integral to the Charles character, especially as derived from the original book. I will say thought that after the first two films they (ahem) diluted that aspect and the characters go t more and more sober. Great to have your thoughts on this – thanks very much.

            Sergio

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