Steven Spielberg Trying to Keep LINCOLN Alive While Seeing HARVEY with Robert Downey Jr. as the Lead?

     September 14, 2009

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Nothing can pull a project out of development hell faster than a similar film heading for the screen and turning it into a race.  After all, if the similar film hits first and it’s good, then the original project now has to clear that bar.  And if the similar film flops, it will probably sour audiences on the idea of watching a film with the same subject or concept.

Steven Spielberg will be damned if he lets Robert Redford steal the glory of making an Abraham Lincoln movie first even if Redford’s movie is about Mary Surratt, the woman convicted as a co-conspirator in Lincoln’s assassination.  But if Spielberg hasn’t given up on “Lincoln”, then what does he plan to do with his remake of “Harvey” and trying to get Robert Downey Jr. on board as the lead?  Attempt to find answers to Mr. Spielberg’s problems after the jump.

Variety reports that Spielberg hasn’t given up on his Abraham Lincoln epic but the project’s been postponed due to budget and location problems.  I find those problems odd given that I imagine Steven Spielberg could say something insane like, “I’m Steven Spielberg, my movies have grossed more than the GDP of every third-world-nation and several Western European nations.  Build me a motherfucking full-scale replica of the White House circa 1863.  And then build me another one just so I have a spare,” and get away with it.  I just can’t imagine who has the job of telling Steven Spielberg, “No.”

But while Spielberg tries to buy some time on “Lincoln” by having Tony Kushner (“Angels in America”) revise the script, there’s also the matter of Spielberg’s planned remake of the classic 1950 James Stewart film, “Harvey” about a man who’s best friend is a six-foot-tall invisible rabbit.  While I still think the project is unnecessary and a waste of Spielberg’s power to make any film he wants, Variety saying that Robert Downey Jr. is considering playing the lead has slightly raised my interest.  I would like to see a collaboration between Spielberg and Downey and after Downey’s recent streak of roles playing over-confident smart-asses who learn some humility it would be nice to see him in a sweeter, softer role than what we’ve seen over the past few years.

It’s hard for me to know which project I should root for.  Remaking “Harvey” is a waste of time but it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad film with Spielberg directing and Downey Jr. as the lead.  “Lincoln” is a more exciting project but I don’t have much faith in Kushner and it needs to make sure it draws from Dolores Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals” for its dramatic conflict rather than make a hagiography against the backdrop of the civil war.

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