EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures is developing a new version of Scarface, the title first released in 1932 and then turned into the iconic 1983 film that starred Al Pacino as Cuban gangster Tony Montana. I’d heard that the studio has been meeting writers to script a take for a film that will be produced by Marc Shmuger and his Global Produce banner along with Martin Bregman. Bregman produced the Pacino version.
The film is not intended to be a remake or a sequel. It will take the common elements of the first two films: An outsider, an immigrant, barges his way into the criminal establishment in pursuit of a twisted version of the American dream, becoming a kingpin through a campaign of ruthlessness and violent ambition. The studio is keeping the specifics of where the new Tony character comes from under wraps at the moment, but ethnicity and geography were important in the first two versions. In the 1932 Scarface, an Italian (Paul Muni) took over Chicago, and in the Brian De Palma-directed remake, a Cuban cornered the cocaine trade in 1980s Miami, only to be consumed by it. Ann Dvorak, George Raft and Boris Karloff starred in the original, and Michelle Pfeiffer, Steven Bauer and Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio starred in the remake.
Does the Universal library title Scarface deserve an updated version for a new generation? I’m told that when Universal put together the 1983 film, there were howls of heresy; after all, the film was considered a Howard Hughes-produced classic, with a script by Ben Hecht. Howard Hawks directed it with Richard Rosson. The remake became iconic in its own way, particularly in influencing hip-hop culture. Tony Montana’s image is still widely merchandised; his signature line “Say hello to my little friend” remains the biggest-selling cell phone voice ringtone, and Universal has sold more than 10 million DVD units worldwide.