When it was announced that Dwayne Johnson would step into the shoes of his Furious 7 co-star Kurt Russell’s iconic Jack Burton for a Big Trouble in Little China remake, fans were shaking the pillars of heaven in anger. If you were one of the non-plussed, rest assured that The Rock heard you, and he told Entertainment Weekly that he plans to bring on someone who understands the property implicitly: Original director John Carpenter.
“I loved reading the reactions from the fans, that they were so polarized – I’m the same way,” Johnson said. “My response is: know that I come to the project with nothing but love and respect for the original, which is why we want to bring on John Carpenter.”
Unlike some previous remakes of John Carpenter films (Halloween, The Fog), he did not write the screenplay for Big Trouble in Little China (Gary Goldman, David Z. Weinstein and W.D. Richter did), so 20th Century Fox is not beholden to Carpenter for anything. However, Johnson is one of the most media-savvy stars in the biz and knows that paying proper respect to the original filmmaker will go a long way towards getting fans to accept him behind the wheel of the ol’ Pork-Chop Express. Whether that means Carpenter will have legitimate creative input or merely a couple of publicity photos and a token executive producer credit is another story.
One person this might be news to is Carpenter himself, who responded a week ago to an outraged fan on Facebook (via Bleeding Cool), writing, “I only know what I read in the papers. I’m not involved with it… I didn’t write the original one–no harm, no foul.” Hopefully since then he’s at least gotten a courtesy call from Johnson saying, “Yessir, the check is in the mail.”
A remake of Carpenter’s Escape From New York has been mooted for some time, but it’s proved a tough nut to crack so far. As beloved as it is, Big Trouble in Little China might be even harder to remake for today’s nervous studio climate given its off-beat (r.e. hard-to-market) blend of martial arts, fantasy and comedy… not to mention the fact that Jack Burton is more buffoon than action hero (Dennis Dun’s Wang was the actual hero). Johnson seems to understand that this will be a delicate balance to pull off, and has the attitude that if it doesn’t work out that’s the way the fortune cookie crumbles.
“I loved the original when I was younger and I loved the main character – all the characters,” added Johnson. “It felt like if we surrounded ourselves with the right group of people, the right writers who loved the movie too and wanted to honor it, bring on John Carpenter in some capacity … If we did that, then we have a shot at hopefully making something good. Let’s see what feels good, what we can come up with and then go from there. As we write it, if the whole thing starts to stink up, then we thank everybody for their efforts and accept this just couldn’t make it.”
The 1986 Big Trouble in Little China followed Jack Burton, an American trucker who, after paying a visit to his friend in San Francisco’s Chinatown, finds himself drawn into a supernatural showdown with the forces of evil.
Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz, best known for writing X-Men: First Class, will develop the script for the new film, which will be produced by Dany Garcia, Hiram Garcia and Johnson himself.