Although Leonardo DiCaprio has backed away, nodding politely and making a disingenuous “call me” gesture, from Clint Eastwood’s A Star Is Born, he’s been much more eager about doing another remake: DiCaprio is attached to star in an update of 1974’s The Gambler for Paramount, which would reteam him with The Departed team of Martin Scorsese and screenwriter William Monahan. The original starred James Caan as an English professor whose life slowly falls to pieces over his gambling addiction—a story inspired both by Fyodor Dostoevsky’s eponymous novel, but more specifically, the actual experiences of screenwriter James Toback, who struggled with own gaming obsessions during his tenure as a lecturer at the City College of New York, just like his main character.
Unfortunately, no one at Paramount bothered to tell Toback that they were, essentially, remaking his life story—and understandably, Toback isn’t happy about it. After learning about the project through his “friend and L.A. housemate, Brett Ratner” (yes, they have apparently shacked up together to work on their forthcoming John DeLorean biopic), Toback fired off a long email to Deadline in which he expressed his anger over the fact that he wasn’t even notified, and lamented that, when it comes to doing remakes, presumably “all anyone gives a fuck about [is] whether something is legal.” Compounding his hurt feelings are the involvement of original producer Irwin Winkler and DiCaprio, of whom Toback says he is a “friend and unlimited admirer,” and the fact that either of them thought to say anything to Toback, leaving him to find out third-hand through a blog article that prompted a 3 a.m. phone call from Brett Ratner—which needs only an “also, your dog died” postscript to make it one of the most depressing chains of communication imaginable.
Anyway, Toback acknowledges that since Paramount does own the rights to The Gambler, he can’t stop them from remaking it. However, he does hope they’ll now maybe consider finally releasing the original on DVD, and also realize their “rudeness” and “disrespect,” which they’ll probably get right on doing really soon.
Incidentally, none of this has anything to do with Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler, but that’s a pretty great song, isn’t it? Here it is, with Muppets. Cheer up, James Toback.
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