10 Directors Who Made the Same Film Twice

As we have journeyed beyond initial innovations in cinematography, acting, and audio/visual technology into the age of sequels and franchises, the remake has become a fundamental part of contemporary cinema. While the tradition of remaking films is nothing new, what with English-speaking audiences’ allergy to subtitles and the constant advancement of technology offering innumerable ways to improve prior works, it’s not often the original director signs on to make the same movie again.

Yet these rare beasts exist. Various factors attract a filmmaker back to a finished project, including large paydays, larger audiences, and producers who won’t take no for an answer. While results vary, for better or worse, here are 10 directors who made the same film twice.

Related: 10 Franchise Movies That Needed a Different Director

10 The Pang Brothers, Bangkok Dangerous (1999/2008)

The gap of subtitles can be a tough one for Western moviegoers to traverse. Indeed, so reluctant and resistant are mainstream U.S. audiences to read their films that Hollywood has created a lucrative business in adapting international pictures for the English-speaking market. And while this often entails an entirely new production with different creatives, producers, actors, and crew, sometimes the original talent stays on.

Such is the case for brothers Danny and Oxide Pang, whose Thai action-thriller Bangkok Dangerous, about a deaf-mute assassin on a one-man-army revenge mission, failed to translate to overseas audiences, despite the directors’ Tarantino-infused style. While the Pangs let their movie lie fallow for nearly a decade, when the Hollywood money men came calling, they jumped at the chance to helm the film’s remake.

Although the pair sought to remain true to their original vision, some changes had to be made. The most significant being that the deaf-mute hitman (now played by A-lister Nicolas Cage) would no longer be deaf or mute because—in their own words—”from a marketing purpose, Nic needs to have some lines.”[1]

9 Cecil B. DeMille, The Ten Commandments (1923/1956)

From the old guard of American filmmaking, Cecil B. DeMille worked with the medium through its initial silent era and into the talkies, from black and white into color, refining his craft alongside the industry. As technology advanced, DeMille developed an interest in biblical and Roman subjects and produced some spellbinding historical epics, with his first of this kind—1923’s The Ten Commandments—holding the Paramount revenue record for a quarter of a century.

But DeMille was far from done. While financial and technical limitations caused DeMille to split his original film into two parts, pairing the story of Exodus with a modern tale of two brothers, the director was able to focus all of his 1956 remake on Moses and the sins of Rameses II.

With money, resources, and cutting-edge innovations at his fingertips, DeMille was able to realize the definitive biblical epic, with full-color VistaVision film stock, 12,000 actors, 15,000 animals, state-of-the-art special effects, and Charleton Heston and Yul Brynner in the lead roles. The most important element, however, was being able to film on location in Egypt, bringing the new version a similitude that blew audiences away.[2]

8 Tim Burton, Frankenweenie (1984/2012)

Tim Burton’s film career spans decades and has seen the self-consciously strange director tackle live-action blockbusters, animations, musical features, remakes, and anything else the studios will let him near. But it all began with a $1-million-budget black-and-white picture called Frankenweenie
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The film is a humorous homage to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and follows a young boy who brings his bull terrier back from the dead. Although it was bankrolled by Disney, Burton had only enough cash to make a live-action feature (despite envisioning it as animation). The House of Mouse didn’t want anything to do with it once it was made, deeming it too scary. As a result, the film was left behind—until 2012.

With creative carte blanche from Disney (and a $39 million budget), Burton resurrected his project in glorious stop-motion. But rather than being sour about not getting his way in the first place, he credits the restraints on the original movie with motivating him toward live-action and the gig that won him his first major movie—Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985).[3]

7 Alfred Hitchcock, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934/1956)

Despite making the most well-known movies of his career in America, with American locations, American actors, and American cultural concerns, Alfred Hitchcock was a British director who formed his career in the UK. Among the films produced during his British period is The Man Who Knew Too Much, a spy thriller that sees an ordinary couple become embroiled in international espionage when holidaying in Switzerland.

The film was well-received and helped establish the director domestically and internationally. Over the next few decades, Hitchcock considered revisiting it with more experience and a larger budget. It wasn’t until two decades later, however, having become a cornerstone of the Hollywood system, that he got his opportunity.

In 1956, he created a new American version of the movie for Paramount, starring James Stewart and Doris Day in the lead roles and transplanting the action to French Morocco. Despite the film’s initial box office success and Hitchcock’s claim that “The first version is the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional,” the second was kept out of general circulation until 1983.[4]

6 Wes Anderson, Bottle Rocket (1994/1996)

Fresh out of college in the early ’90s, Wes Anderson and his roommate Owen Wilson were determined to do anything necessary to break into the film industry. This began with the filming of Bottle Rocket, an ultra-low budget black and white movie directed by Anderson and starring Owen and his brother Luke Wilson, in which some friends try their darndest to execute a heist.

The film screened at the 1994 Sundance Festival, where producer Barbara Boyle bought it before bringing it to legendary director-producer James L. Brooks (of the Mary Tyler Moore Show and Simpsons fame), who met with the filmmakers and eventually agreed to finance a longer, more expensive version.

Despite plowing ahead with their vision for the movie, Anderson and Wilson were met with a negative reception on most fronts, with test screenings going terribly, Sundance refusing to screen the new picture, and the box office taking around a tenth of the budget. Nonetheless, time has been Bottle Rocket’s ally, and the film is now fondly looked upon as a hidden gem of Anderson’s oeuvre—and one of Martin Scorsese’s favorite films.[5]

5 Michael Mann, L.A. Takedown/Heat (1989/1995)

Heat is regarded as one of the greatest crime movies of all time, and it made history by bringing two heavyweights of the genre—Robert De Niro and Al Pacino— together for the first time. They play master crook Neil McCauley (De Niro) and lawman Lieutenant Hanna (Pacino), who are caught in a game of cat and mouse as the former attempts to execute his final heist.

But the film almost didn’t get made, and if it hadn’t been for director Michael Mann’s first version of the film, L.A. Takedown, it might have stayed that way.

The 180-page Heat screenplay preceded both films and was written by Mann in the late 1970s. He then revised it after making Thief in 1981, and after being unable to get it off the ground, he wound up shooting L.A. Takedown in the late 1980s, using an abridged version of the script.

This film wound up serving as the prototype for its successor and was enough to drum up interest and prove that Mann could pull off an epic crime feature. As a result, he was able to revisit and realize the vision of his original script—as Heat—half a decade later.[6]

4 Sam Raimi, The Evil Dead/Evil Dead II (1981/1987)

Sam Raimi’s low-budget possession horror The Evil Dead took audiences by surprise in the early ’80s, proving that horror could be cheap, funny, and downright sensational at the same time, while also cementing the cabin in the woods formula. It takes a group of young, dumb college students led by Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) to a cabin in the woods, where an evil book brings demonic spirits into their midst.

Considered both a remake and sequel to the original movie, Evil Dead II explored some pretty new territory for horror and franchise filmmaking, remaking and retreading the entirety of the first movie. And there are two main reasons for this.

Firstly, Raimi wanted to change the existing film’s narrative to fit with his future ideas for the franchise, retconning the ending in which Ash died. The second and most significant reason, however, was that he and his producers didn’t own the rights to the first film, so they were forced to make a new version of the existing feature, confusing fans the world over.[7]

3 Takashi Shimizu, The Grudge (2002/2004)

One of the forerunners of J-horror, Takashi Shimizu, managed to affect the horror landscape at home and in the U.S. as one of the rare directors willing to direct the Hollywood remake of his own film.

The third in Shimizu’s Ju-On series and the first to receive a theatrical release, The Grudge’s plot focuses on the events surrounding a haunted house, where the ghosts of a murdered family haunt and attack the home’s occupants. The movie was successful domestically and built enough of a cult following abroad for American producers to take an interest. The first time they offered Shimizu the gig, he refused, but after a little persuasion from producer Sam Raimi, he reluctantly accepted.

At the helm, the Japanese director was able to seize creative control of his work for a whole different audience, while interpreting the plot and script of the original for his new film and actors. Despite clashes with producers during production and a disappointing reception from fans and critics, he stands by the remake as the version he feels is the most complete and the one he is most satisfied with.[8]

2 Hans Petter Moland, In Order of Disappearance/Cold Pursuit (2014/2019)

Norwegian-language thriller In Order of Disappearance follows a snowplow driver (Stellan Skarsgard) who inadvertently ignites a gang war when he seeks vengeance for the death of his son. Despite this easy, familiar concept, a major star draw in Skarsgard, and a warm reception from critics across international territories, Hollywood still wanted an English-language version from the outset.

At the film’s Berlin premiere, Moland was beset by calls from studios and producers seeking to buy the rights. While he hadn’t initially considered remaking his movie as a possibility, Moland’s producer convinced him that his tone and style were such an essential part of the original’s success as to make him indispensable.

Moland conceded on the basis that if his film had been a theater production, he would have had no problem putting on a production in the States, breaking down the stigma surrounding remakes. Nonetheless, it took five years to get the film—now entitled Cold Pursuit—off the ground, despite Liam Neeson being attached to the production from the start.[9]

1 Michael Haneke, Funny Games (1997/2007)

In the decades since Funny Games’ release, the psychological horror has achieved a pervasive notoriety, securing its legacy. The film takes place at a middle-class family’s vacation home, where a pair of polite and sinister young men—Paul (Arno Frisch) and Peter (Frank Giering)—drop by and tear the family apart, ending in misery, bloodshed, and disaster.

Director Michael Haneke hoped his German-language film would be well received in the U.S., as this is the audience he envisioned while making it, reflecting on what he described as “the pornography of violence” in Western media. Unfortunately, the barrier of subtitles got in the way, and Funny Games failed to make a splash across the pond. Thus, when producer Chris Coen approached Haneke to make an English-language version of the film, he accepted.

While most directors are content to approach their film with a new vision, Haneke was determined to remake the new Funny Games as a shot-for-shot remake with American actors. Despite these limits and controls, an entirely different chemistry blossomed between the characters onscreen and brought a new, dark humor to the fore.[10]

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