Let’s Never Return to Casablanca
Of all the undeveloped film scripts in all the vaults in all of Hollywood…
Let’s talk for a few minutes about the inevitable sequel to Casablanca.
Ahem. [Takes a giant sip of coffee and spits it everywhere, just all over the place, for like 10 minutes straight]
Every few years, the Hollywood machine digs up some reason to discuss a possible sequel to the 1942 masterpiece of filmmaking. Most recently – that is, last week – that excuse has been the tenuous supposition that Cass Warner, granddaughter of Warner Bros. co-founder Harry Warner, wants it to happen.
Also, hey, the movie turns 70 years old on Nov. 26, so there’s that.
Just like the original, but without Nazis… Or Bogart… Not like the original at all.
The appropriate first response to this idea is “God damn it.” That’s some pretty strong lineage in the “for” column, and if little Cass (actually, middle-aged Cass) wants it to happen strongly enough, it’s possible.
To be clear: A Casablanca sequel is not in the works, at least no more than it has been for the last several decades, nor should it ever be in the works. This is one of the greatest movies of all time, and while I’m not in the camp that thinks its legacy would be tarnished – look how well The Wizard of Oz still fares in spite of the fact that it has been made the victim of so many silly cash-grabbing efforts in the decades since – I do believe the sequel would be universally panned. Even if it were to be a well-made, or even good, film, it would be forgotten by the end of the calendar year: There might be buzz leading up to its release, then a couple weeks of critics wondering if it was the movie of the year. But an adequate movie – in fact, anything less than a Best Picture winner – would almost definitely be forgotten.
That is, unless it was Kingdom of the Crystal Skull-level stupid, in which case, sure, it would be talked about and remembered, but not in the way the filmmakers would want. So at the moment, the project isn’t in the works. But one day, it will be made. Either the movie will be rebooted into a gritty trilogy (then purchased by Disney and made into another trilogy) or, more likely, Warner Bros. will revamp their current intellectual property and create something on the better end of decent, but ultimately forgettable.
There are a few intriguing, tantalizing details about the script for the sequel – which does exist, and has for quite some time now – not the least of which is its alleged plot. The film would focus on Ilsa Lund (originally Ingrid Bergman) and Victor Laszlo (originally Paul Henreid), two decades after the events of Casablanca, searching for Rick Blaine (the inimitable Humphrey Bogart), who disappeared after joining a French military effort against a Nazi general invading North Africa. That sounds kind of cool; I would watch that movie. Unfortunately, that’s all backstory to a plot about Rick and Ilsa’s bastard son, who, let’s face it, would be played by Ryan Gosling or Joseph Gordon-Levitt, searching for his long-lost father.
Lay down a fresh beat, Sam.
There could be some intrigue there, but with nothing approaching the sexy World War II backdrop, the human drama wouldn’t pack nearly the same punch.
Also in the “pro” column, the sequel’s script was penned by the classic’s original scriptwriter, Howard Koch. And, to correct the fact that the original film wasn’t even nominated for the best screenplay award back in ’42 (hard to believe!), Koch would probably win it posthumously for Return to Casablanca (that’s not a joke; that’s the actual working title), because Hollywood just likes patting itself on the back for its own history that much.
That bodes well for consistency and attention to Casablanca’s legacy, but let’s not forget: The script has existed for decades, maybe half a century or more. It would almost certainly get the revision treatment by some hotshot present-day screenwriter. Can you imagine, based on its heavy legacy of historical intrigue and one-liners, how insufferable it could be if Warner Bros. let Aaron Sorkin get his mitts on this movie? Or how awkward it would feel if the Coen Brothers were asked to give it a little character and a touch of quirkiness? How about if John Logan brushed it over with his odd penchant for mystery and action?
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