Tohear director Tony Scott explainit, his updating of the hostage drama The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 isa total "reinvention" of the 1974 thriller widely considered one ofthe decade's classic films.
Whobetter to replace Walter Matthau'swisecracking Transit Police lieutenant than the baronial Denzel Washington? (Except now, thecharacter's a disgraced subway dispatcher.) John Travolta chews scenery in the lead terrorist part that an icyRobert Shaw inhabits in theoriginal. And James Gandolfini putssome psychic distance between himself and Tony Soprano portraying the newmovie's beleaguered mayor.
Thenthere's the new film's showcasing of contemporary technologies: live-blogging,webcams and online commodity trading in pursuit of a criminal vendetta. And, ofcourse, terrorist dramas mean something totally different in the post-Sept. 11era.
Still,there are certain unmistakable consistencies that won't be lost on fans of thefirst Pelham. Scott's reimagining follows hijackers who overtake a NewYork subway car, demanding ransom and shooting hostages. And as with theoriginal, you see law enforcement efforts to stop them vis a vis citybureaucracy and urban ennui. As well, there's a third-act plot twist involvingthe override of the subway train's "dead-man's switch"—a fail-safeintended to ensure a driver is always at the controls.
Yet,for classic film lovers, the fundamental question lingers: Why"reinvent" a beloved film in the first place?
Beforeanswering, Scott put his feet up on a garage door-sized table at the WestHollywood office of his commercial and video production company, leaned back inhis chair and clasped his hands behind his head. With that, he began explaining—not justifying—what led him to the project.
"Brian Helgeland, the writer, came tome two years ago and said he was going to reinvent it, put a spin on it,"he said. "He always comes up with something that inspires me."
Incontrast to many of Scott's high-octane, explosion-and-shootout-a-minute filmssuch as Man on Fire and Domino, Pelham's two leadsverbally spar over the phone for more than two-thirds of the movie. "Thatwas a big challenge for me," Scott admitted.
Turnsout Washington and Travolta resisted meeting each other until near the end offilming to help stoke aggression between their characters, respectively, avaliant but flawed hero and a rage-fueled homicidal maniac.
"Thatwas Denzel's idea," Scott said. "A dynamic tension came out of thatwhere you can see both guys springboard off each other on the phone. They wereon separate sides of the studio for the entire shoot."
Opening soon across the Philippines,The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is distributed by Columbia Pictures, localoffice of Sony Pictures Releasing International.