In 2014, two years after the initial announcement of The Weinstein Company’s acquisition of USA remake rights to the French award-winning blockbuster, various French media sites reported that Kevin Hart had been cast in the American remake of "Intouchables" (released as "The Intoucables" here in the States), taking over the role that helped make Omar Sy an international star. It’s also a role for which Sy won the Cesar (the French equivalent of the Oscars) in 2012, for Best Actor.
It was reported at the time that Hart would co-star opposite the previously cast Colin Firth (playing the part originated in the French film by Francois Cluzet), in a film that tells the story of a relationship between a wealthy white aristocrat who becomes a quadriplegic after a paragliding accident, and the young "street-tough" black man he hires to take care of him.
According to French news sites like Allocine, one-half of the director pair that helmed the original French film, Olivier Nakache, dropped the news of Hart’s casting on a French radio program, Radio Shalom, in October 2014.
Skip ahead today to news from Deadline that Bryan Cranston (no longer Colin Firth) and Kevin Hart are "in talks" to star in the remake, which Simon Curtis is attached to direct. It’s not clear whether Hart has always been "in talks," or was initially attached 2 years ago (as I summarized above), and may have had to drop out for one reason or another, only to now return to take another shot at it.
But Hart’s casting (if an agreement is reached) shouldn’t be much of a surprise. It’s a role that plays to his talents as a comedic actor, and he’s kind of *hot* right now, with box office hit, after hit over the last 4 years, from stand-up comedy specials, to lead roles in various feature films, and also some TV work.
I should mention that, when the remake was first announced 4 years ago, in an interview with Elvis Mitchell, Harvey Weinstein, when asked what his approach would be with regards to recreating Omar Sy’s character (who’s Senegalese) for American audiences, versus the real life man he played in the film, who is Algerian, the conversation dove into matters of immigration as experienced in France, compared to the USA, and how all of that will factor into the USA remake.
Here’s that segment of their conversation:
HARVEY: "Originally, the intention was to have a black actor do it, but you talk about immigration, and the whole Latino thing that’s happening right now, it’s opened up our eyes, and obviously there’s an explosion of thought."
He then went on to talk about the unreliability of the Republicans on the immigration issue here in the USA, before Elvis jumped back in with this:
ELVIS: "In that way it could be a political film… the president decided to grant special status to people who live in this country… it felt like it could be a way into the story that you never thought about."
And Harvey agreed with Mitchell on that, adding what he felt was a misunderstanding we here in the USA had about the French film – essentially that we didn’t get it, and we were looking at it through American eyes, if you will, losing the message of the film in the process – one that was embraced not only in France, but all over the world.
I mention all this because of what has become a central issue during the current presidential campaign here in the USA – immigration, broadly speaking.
If you read our interview with Omar Cy (here), along with interviews we posted with the filmmakers of "The Intouchables," I think you would have seen similar kinds of response.
At the time, I felt that Harvey’s answers gave us a lot to consider in terms of the remake, and a closer look was warranted. But, now that Hart might end up being cast for real this time, let’s see how Harvey runs with this remake; I can only assume that Hart will play a black American man. He did say in the interview that they originally planned to cast an black (African American) actor, and had since considered not doing so.
As noted, in the real-life story the film is based on, the character played by Omar Sy – Abdel Sellou – is Algerian. But they went with the Senegalese Sy in the French film. Omar Sy himself said that the Stateside equivalent of the relationship between the countries that the two men in the original film/real life are from, would be akin to the relationship between the USA and Mexico; so the character he plays in the original film should really be played by a Mexican actor in the Hollywood/Weinstein Company remake – if they wanted to be 100% authentic, as Omar Sy suggested.
Let’s see if Mitchell’s suggestion that the remake could be a "political film," with some aspect of the immigration debate incorporated (or as Weinstein put it "the whole Latino thing"), is indeed worked into the story somehow, with Hart now potentially involved.
There are after all Latinos of African descent.
It was previously reported that Jamie Foxx, Chris Rock and Idris Elba were all on the short list of actors being considered to play the lead role, in what would have been a film directed by Paul Feig. None of that was confirmed by Harvey, however. And Simon Curtis is now attached to direct.
A Bryan Cranston/Kevin Hart pairing doesn’t immediately register with me; I’ll have to see some dailies first. Although maybe Weinstein might be going for something less comedic and more dramatic, giving Hart atypical material to work with, and a potential awards season run for the film, especially with Cranston attached.
Below is the trailer for the original French film, which is streaming on Netflix right now, if you still haven’t seen it. Catch it before the American remake.