Universal’s SCARFACE Project to be Scripted by David Ayer

     November 29, 2011

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When last we reported on the third iteration of Scarface, Universal was still courting writers to tackle the script. The studio has downplayed talk of the new film as a “remake,” calling it a blending of the elements present in director Howard Hawks’ 1932 version and Brian De Palma’s 1983 classic starring Al Pacino. It looks like David Ayer (Training Day) will be the man to bring the variations on the theme together to make a Scarface that is hopefully greater than the sum of its parts.

While the 1932 version featured Paul Muni as an Italian gangster who climbed the criminal ranks in Chicago and the Pacino version centers on a Cuban immigrant seizing control of Miami, the new Scarface will have the flavors of the old with a contemporary twist. The story will focus on an immigrant who brings his own brand of ruthless violence to upset the criminal order and establish himself as the kingpin. Hit the jump to see what Ayer has to say about all three versions of Scarface.

David AyerDeadline reports that Ayer will be writing the script for Scarface, with Marc Shmuger and Martin Bregman producing. When asked about the pressure of living up to the expectations of the beloved Pacino version of Scarface, Ayer appeared more enthusiastic than apprehensive:

“This is a fantasy for me. I can still remember when I saw the film at 13 and it blew my mind. I sought it out; I went after it hard. I see it as the story of the American dream, with a character whose moral compass points in a different direction. That puts it right in my wheelhouse. I studied both the original Ben Hecht-Howard Hawks movie and the DePalma-Pacino version and found some universal themes. I’m still under the hood figuring out the wiring that will translate, but both films had a specificity of place, there was unapologetic violence, and a main character who socially scared the shit out of people, but who had his own moral code. Each was faithful to the underworld of its time. There are enough opportunities in the real world today that provide an opportunity to do this right. If it was just an attempt to remake the 1983 film, that would never work.”

Ayer’s response gives me confidence that this guy knows where Scarface comes from and, hopefully, where it’s going. If you needed more evidence to backup his selection, just look at his body of work. He’s written cop titles Dark Blue and S.W.A.T. and walked the thin blue line with Training Day. His directorial debut, Harsh Times delved into the criminal element once again with some army-related PTSD for good measure. Ayer’s current writer/director effort End of Watch is a drama centering on the friendship and partnership between two cops, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña (Tower Heist). Ayer has both sides of the law down to a science, so it will be interesting to see how much of the focus is on the criminal and how much is on the cops. Then again, in the end it’s all about Scarface.

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