Quebec’s film industry has always been a rich and vibrant one, and many Quebecois’ films are smash hits at the local box office. Handsome heartthrobs such as Roy Dupuis‘ are huge stars at home, so much so that they rarely have a need to travel to Hollywood to find the kind of fame and fortune they already enjoy in Quebec.
For the most part, Hollywood hasn’t shown a huge amount of interest in Quebec either, save for some noteworthy Oscar nominations (Incendies, Monsieur Lazhar and War Witch, most recently) and wins (Denys Arcand’s The Barbarian Invasions). And in the more English-speaking parts of Canada, Quebecois films occasionally penetrate (Bon Cop, Bad Cop was a big hit everywhere), but for the most part the English and French-language industries have relatively little crossover.
Hollywood Comes Knocking
The respectful distance between the English and French film industries in North America may be disappearing however, as both Hollywood and the English Canadian industries have come knocking on Quebec’s door twice recently, and two French Canadian films are currently getting the English-language treatment. Interestingly, directorial control over both films has been left in the hands of Canucks, so the Canadian influence will remain.
In fact, this isn’t the first time that Hollywood has mined Quebecois cinema for a remake. Michel Poulette’s little known (outside of Quebec, that is) 1994 comedy Louis 19, le roi des ondes was a prescient and hilarious commentary on what would eventually become our reality-TV obsessed present. It was remade by Ron Howard in 1999 as edTV, which starred Matthew McConaughey in the lead role.
On the current Quebecois remake slate includes The Grand Seduction, which is based on a 2003 film of approximately the same name, La grande seduction (though the French original was translated into English as Seducing Dr. Lewis), by Jean-Francois Pouliot. The new version is being directed by Canadian cinematic Jack-of-all-trades Don McKellar, and will star a mostly Canadian cast, including Liane Balaban, Gordon Pinsent and Taylor Kitsch, who is probably best known for his starring role on the hit NBC show Friday Night Lights. The Grand Seduction is being filmed in Newfoundland, and will remain relatively faithful to the original story, about a big city doctor who is lured to a small, rural fishing village, where locals have been promised a new factory if they can secure a full time doctor – which of course leads to all kinds of schemes to make it happen.
The second film on the remake slate is Ken Scott’s Starbuck, a festival fave and box office hit in Quebec in 2011. The as-yet untitled remake is being adapted by Scott himself, who will presumably be injecting the film with a bit of American flavour. Casting for the film was confirmed to include Vince Vaughn in the lead role played by Patrick Huard in the original. The charming comedy centres on an immature middle-aged dude (Vaughn) who struggles to convince his pregnant girlfriend that he is indeed ready for fatherhood, only to discover that he’s already a Dad 500 times over, due to an old habit of earning quick cash at sperm banks. When hundreds of his progeny petition to meet their biological father, hilarity inevitably ensues.
The Ken Scott Connection
The connection between these two films is Ken Scott. He wrote Le grande seduction and was originally slated to adapt and direct the remake until the remake rights to Starbuck were snapped up by DreamWorks and Scott managed to get himself attached as writer/director. Scott promptly passed the directing torch for The Grand Seduction to Don McKellar, though he retains the job of writing the adaptation.
Scott has been an active and prolific writer in Canada for many years and has three directing credits under his belt already, but with the sudden explosion in interest in his older works, he’s poised to cross over from being a respected writer and director who’s “big in Quebec” to one who’s recognized internationally.
Hopefully the same will eventually be true of French Canadian films as well.
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