Monday, August 8, 2022

Recasting 1985 (supporting): "Clue"

If someone were to ask me my top five all-time favorite movies, I'd be hard pressed to leave out 1985's dark comedy, Clue. I recorded it from a fuzzy HBO connection sometime in the late 80s, and it was a film that for whatever reason I found myself watching over and over again. My family owned the Parker Brothers board game off of which the film is based, so I was familiar with the characters before seeing it. Looking back, I'm confident I was drawn to the campy, often bitchy, dialogue that seemed to move a mile a minute. For these reasons, I'm choosing to insert Meryl into the film in the role originated by Lesley Ann Warren, Miss Scarlet. 

I feel the need to mention that it's easy for me to choose films in these recasting series that are somehow special to me personally. And I do it fairly often. But it's not an absolute rule when selecting roles. Spoiler alert, ensemble films that I adore like Steel Magnolias, Sense and Sensibility and Gosford Park are movies that I'd love to imagine Sreep participating in (and individually considered as well). But they just don't have roles that really stood out as either compelling or realistic for Meryl for when they would've been made. So, they will remain untouched by my thieving brain. Clue, on the other hand, is a picture along this same line of familiarity and high personal regard where I also find a role for which I think it's fitting to insert Meryl. 

As mentioned, the story is based on the board game that became popular in the 80s, with most of the original characters thrown together in a murder mystery that takes place over the course of one night. It's set in 1954 New England, where the characters (all given pseudonyms for the evenings to protect their identities) are brought together for a dinner party under the guise that the person blackmailing them will be revealed. "Miss Scarlet" is a sassy D.C. madam who's paying blackmail to avoid her modern-day brothel from being exposed. I wasn't able to find any full scenes with just Miss Scarlet, but there's a great mix of several clips of Warren that shows off the character well throughout the movie. 

Theaters showed one of three different endings to the movie. I've only seen it from TV, where they showed all three "possible" endings. The first of them shows Scarlet as the murderer of all the unexpected guests (informants), effectively eliminating the people who could bring evidence against her as the true blackmailer. The film is so silly at times, but I so often found it a total riot when the screenplay would showcase the characters as trying to be so demure and serious, only to turn out to be rather goofy...all while people are being killed right and left in their presence. This clip, for example, is one of my favorite moments in the history of cinema. It's so ridiculous and funny that these folks would break into song to pacify a murderer who's about to get away scott-free. And with three-part harmony and a descant from the great Madeline Kahn to boot!

As unlikely as it may seem that Meryl would've ever done this movie, part of the fun of the supporting version of this recasting project is imagining scenarios where she might have sneaked in smaller projects that wouldn't have taken up a ton of her time. Filming only took one month in Los Angeles, for example. More interesting to consider, perhaps, is that Carrie Fisher was originally cast to portray Miss Scarlet,. She dropped out shortly before shooting began to enter rehab. I can find no evidence to suggest that she and Meryl were close friends prior to production of 1990's Postcards from the Edge (based on the semi-autobiographical novel Fisher drafted after her stint in rehab). But I've seen several photos of Fisher and Postcards director Mike Nichols chumming around together well prior to 1980. Nichols of course also directed Streep in 1983's Silkwood. It's not wild to imagine Fisher having some at least oblique connection to Streep. Perhaps even Nichols being able to suggest her as a replacement when Fisher had to drop out. That's a bit far fetched, I suppose, but stranger things have of course happened, and Streep's name would've been a nice boon to the marketing department for the film. 

Clue was by no means a critical darling, and it made disappointing returns at the box office. But it's a film that has maintained a strong cult following to this day. While director Jonathan Lynn took a bit of a career beating after the film's release, he bounced back with 1992's My Cousin Vinny, and names Clue as the film for which he continues to receive the most fan mail. It's aged success has left a lot of people wondering "why?" I found this quote from Michael McKean, who plays closeted State Department employee, Mr. Green. I think it sums up pretty well why a lot of folks, who, like me, discovered this oddball flick in their prepubescent years, were so quickly and thoroughly hooked:

"I have a theory. It's a movie that is about adult stuff, but you don't need a lot of hands-on experience to know what they're talking about. It's about murder and sex and blackmail, but you don't really get your hands dirty because it's so silly. It's almost like the characters in it were based on characters in a game. Oh, wait a minute!"


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  2. I must watch this Jeff, it sounds like a real hoot and something you still love! I've heard of it but somehow get it mixed up with "Murder By Death". I have those movies I still love from childhood even if I might have dismissed them as an adult.

    For my 1985 choice I will (predictably) opt for "Prizza's Honor". Still a hugely acclaimed classic, I would love to see Meryl working alongside Kathleen Turner, another great talent. It would also be a great role to contrast with "Out Of Africa" in the same year.

    1. Prizzi's Honor was definitely on my radar since Anjelica Huston won an Oscar for it. I had never seen it and was fully expecting that I'd probably end up choosing it for this project. But Joe and I watched it last year and (or I should say "tried" watching it), and we both really disliked it. I honestly don't remember if we even finished because we were so underwhelmed. Not sure what it was...just didn't spark an interest and I thought the role was sort of whatever.