Carol and On Chesil Beach producer Stephen Woolley is developing a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru set in London in the 1950s. Woolley, who runs Number 9 Films with Elizabeth Karlsen, revealed the remake in the foreword of a book celebrating the Scala Cinema, the ambitious theater that he set up in 1979. Scala Cinema: 1978 to 1993 by Jane Giles is published by Fab Press on October 18.
The cinema, which was a British equivalent to the grindhouse venues on the West Coast of the U.S., was founded in 1970 and its first all-nighter showed Ikiru, the classic Japanese feature that followed a bureaucrat trying to find meaning in his life after discovering he has terminal cancer.
“I still get inspiration from these beautiful Scala programmes,” Woolley said. “Nearly 40 years on from that Scala screening, I’m reading a screenplay today for a version I commissioned that will be set in 1950s London, and which I hope to shoot next year.”
Woolley said that the Scala cinema was intended to distil the best of “idiosyncratic cinemas” such as The Everyman in Hampstead, the ICA on the Mall and the Screen on the Green that included music, performance and a “healthy disregard for censorship of any kind”, summed up by its closure for airing Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, which was banned in Britain.
“When I look back at the programme I produced in June 1979, I realise that all of the ingredients are there as a blueprint for the future, from Klaus Kinski rubbing shoulders with John Wayne, Judy Garland linking hands with Toshiro Mifune, and Rock Rock Rock! sharing time with The Battle of Chile,” he wrote.
The Palace Pictures founder called Scala a “beacon of camaraderie and companionship for lovers of Laurel and Hardy and Fassbinder alike” and was pleased that it could mix The Prisoner with B-movie westerns. “In my mind, the real pleasure of being part of the Scala was imagining that people would make the journey to Tottenham Street or King’s Cross to see a Clint Eastwood all-nighter, and then perhaps return for a screening of Jean Genet’s Un Chant d’amour or vice-versa,” he said.
“The demise of the Scala was inevitable in the face of today’s access to so many movies, perfectly preserved and in so many different formats, and its rebirth impossible and arguably unnecessary, other than in the pop-up,” he added.