If you want to ease the minds of film fans about a remake you’re working on, just compare it to Ocean’s 11. That’s what Will Smith did back in 2002 when his production company bought the rights to Sidney Poitier’s Uptown Saturday Night with plans to do an all-star Black update on the 1974 classic that originally paired up Poitier and Bill Cosby.
At the time, Smith mentioned casting Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. Eight years later, the remake is in motion again, this time with Smith set to costar with Denzel Washington.
In the original, Cosby and Poitier play old buddies who are robbed during a nightclub hold-up and must solve the case in order to get back a winning lottery ticket that’s in Cosby’s wallet. The film also starred Richard Pryor, Harry Belefonte, Flip Wilson and Calvin Lockhart. If Smith’s initial pitch can be continued, let’s hope that these characters are indeed filled with modern African-American stars like the aforementioned Murphy and Lawrence. And while we’re on the topic of casting, It’d be interesting and refreshingly against type to put Smith in the Poitier role and Washington in Cosby’s.
Warner Bros. and Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment are currently looking for writers to pen a new draft of the film, working from a previous script by Robb and Mark Cullen. And for the moment, director David Dobkin is attached to the remake. Overbrook also holds the rights to the subsequent Cosby/Poitier pairings Let’s Do It Again and A Piece of the Action. Neither was technically a sequel to Uptown Saturday Night, though the three films are considered a trilogy. My assumption is if the Uptown remake is a hit, they’ll redo the follow-ups as straight sequels involving the same characters.