Saturday, 18 April 2009


Britain, Britain, [imagine Tom Baker's voice] Britain, birthplace of America's Got Talent, Jason Statham, Little Britain USA... and State of Play. Someone, I don't remember who (may this person please excuse my failing memory), once wrote that BBC America was the home of future US tv series - or something like that. But this works for movies too.

The US remake of State of Play, the classic BBC series with John Simm, starring the always reliable Russell Crowe, opens this weekend. Many thanks to our Canadian friend Furious D and to his great blog ( for attracting our attention on this article of the Los Angeles Times titled Dismal fate may await 'State of Play' (,0,395527.story).

Well, readers of the French version of this blog already know our prevention about the movie remake. Since my review of DVD region 2 set of Life on Mars, actually - Brad Pitt was then attached to the project. John Horn writes: « While some of "State of Play's" likely lackluster performance will be blamed on Crowe, the 45-year-old Australian -- who is overweight and disheveled in the film's lead role as an investigative newspaper reporter -- is hardly the sole issue. Equally problematic is "State of Play's" genre: the highbrow adult drama, which is quickly becoming a big-studio relic ».

Furious D politely objects that « it's hard to be a thriller when you're more predictable than the tides ». There's fortunately no rule which commands that the character must look like a Calvin Klein model so the shape of Russell Crowe is indifferent. But my perplexity is growing when I read here and there that the chief problem of State of Play is that complex thrillers is a trend not performing at the box office. « Ye but no, but ye... » would answer Vicky Pollard of Little Britain. Hollywoodland is an industry where Franchise is perceived as the Golden Ticket but the studios cyclicly deliver the worse and the better in many genres, from Blockbusters to indies or faux indies.

Take the year 2006, for instance: Big Momma's House 2, Nanny McPhee, Scary Movie 4, but also the excellent V for Vendetta, Lucky Number Slevin or the sophisticated Inside Man - with a production budget of $45 million and $184,376,254 earned worldwide ( for Universal, the studio behind State of Play. If the idea is that there's no room today for another Inside Man, I hope not but we're in recession times, comedies fare more than well, and production companies are scanning every comic books to find the new Dark Knight.

But maybe the karma of State of Play US could be summarized in three words: Life on Mars. The movie, directed by the talented Kevin McDonald (The last King of Scotland) coincidentally arrives after the cancellation of ABC's US version of Life on Mars - the Kudos/BBC series starring... John Simm and Philip Glenister (who played a copper in the original State of Play!) American attempts to remake Brit shows could have been considered commercially relevant at a time when these shows were exclusively on syndication or on PBS but with BBC America, DVDs and the internet, every American viewer interested by what UK television can offer has seen Life on Mars.

And why bother to adapt stateside entries so deeply British like Blackpool, the series with David Morrissey - who played so brilliantly the polititician in State of Play - or State of Play, with its Whitehall intrigues and the specificities of the UK press. Particularly when there's Simm and Morrissey, two of the finest British actors of this century, in the latest.

I understand through reviews that the "Plus" product of the movie is Newspaper journalism vs Blogging but hey, folks, The Times They Are A-Changin. And what could a US political thriller treatment could add? We've seen all of the genre, from All the President's men to the 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate. « Because it's almost always a sinister defense contractor. If not, it's a CIA/FBI cabal. Or it's the military. Or it's some other corporate baddy up to no good. (pharmaceutical and chemical companies are popular choices) » writes Furious D.

According to Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily, State Of Play debuted on Friday 17 to #2 but with only $4.5 million from 2,803 venues for probably an underperforming $14M weekend ( We'll see what its total gross (domestic + foreign) will be but « Would original leading man Brad Pitt have made a difference in the film's box office? » asks Nikki, before answering herself to that question.

Amazingly, the interest of Hollywood for British television series doesn't seem to fade after Life on Mars and State of Play. Warner Brothers considers a big screen remake of Primeval ( If series three of this once very good show goes on reinventing US syndication products of the nineties, two episodes back to back would certainly be less expensive.

Update (April 20): It seems that some observers are at the moment rather satisfied with State of Play's box office so be prepared for House of Cards - The movie, The State within redux and Best of Masterpiece Theatre - The Musical!

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