J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Whoa, Brown Beauty!

It’s a sign of the power of celebrity, and perhaps a slow season, that the news that Johnny Depp might make a movie about Paul Revere got so much attention this week.

The story started with an item at the Deadline website:
Disney and Johnny Depp's Infinitum Nihil are teaming up on two new projects: a feature version of the '70s TV movie The Night Stalker, and a drama about the Midnight Ride made by Paul Revere to warn Colonial militia of the impending British invasion [sic]. . . .

Dembrowski and Depp set up the Paul Revere film at Disney with Batman Forever scribes Lee and Janet Batchler writing the screenplay. The film will focus on the Boston silversmith and that 24-hour period in which he made the risky "midnight ride" from Charlestown to Lexington [sic], becoming a seminal figure in the American Revolutionary War.
Entertainment Weekly picked up the story, followed by local newspapers, radio stations, and so on. By the end of the chain, people were reporting that Depp would star.

That’s a possibility, and one that increases the value of the project—like Revere in 1775, Depp’s now a family man in his forties, and he’s been very successful in eighteenth-century costume (Pirates of the Caribbean, Sleepy Hollow). But both articles actually said that Depp wasn’t committed to act in the film. If it even gets made—many more Hollywood projects stall out at this early stage than reach theaters.

Furthermore, speculation that the movie might be filmed in this area falters on the fact that almost nowhere Revere went looks like it did in 1775. You remember when H.B.O. filmed John Adams here in Boston and Quincy? Neither do I.

Lastly, I don’t think the Batman Forever screenplay is a great cinematic achievement (despite introducing Robin the Boy Wonder into that version of the mythos). So I’m not getting excited until this project is much further along.

12 comments:

Robert S. Paul said...

The only thing that gives me a glimmer of hope that this might be remotely historically accurate is the backlash Palin got about this very subject.

Then again, by the time filming wraps up and post is done, no one will remember that, and Hollywood will glam Mr. Revere up to bring in the bucks.

In my ultimate dreams, though, they'd do an entire film about April 19th, starting with the Redcoats rowing out, and it'd star the best historical actor I know of: Daniel Day Lewis.

Maybe I should write a script....

J. L. Bell said...

Whom would Day-Lewis play? Because by physical type, Revere should be Jack Black, with Seth Rogen as William Dawes.

Maybe Day-Lewis could play Earl Percy, warning that the secret is out in the first act and leading the British withdrawal in the second.

Robert S. Paul said...

Yeah I'd buy that.

Tess said...

I must disagree, gentlemen. Although Black and Rogen are undoubtedly of the right physique, I don't think they could carry a Bostonian accent very well. Well, not the way we can anyway.

Rob Velella said...

Yes, now I'm seeing it: Seth Rogen and Jack Black star in the uproariously funny "Midnight Riders," a new slapstick comedy from Disney. At least one scene should involve a talking horse.

J. L. Bell said...

…and Adam Sandler as the voice of Brown Beauty! Well, he could do a modern Boston accent if he had to. But are we sure that Revere sounded just like guys from Southie?

MarySimonsen said...

Just found your blog. It's great. I'm a genealogist as well.

John L. Smith said...

Having had a speaking role in the recent Civil War flick "The Conspirator", directed by Redford, I can say that the same production company (The American Film Co.) has stated that they're doing script development for "Midnight Riders", the story of Revere and Concord-Lexington. Obviously I've been monitoring this very closely as "historical" films are my interest. [I was also just in "X-Men: First Class" as it deals with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962). Last thing I heard was that (maybe) Jack Black would play Revere as he looks something like the silversmith. But Depp def. has the star power. Yeah, good luck with it filming in Mass., which I would love! More likely - Canada, Williamsburg or somewhere like Latvia or the Czech Republic. :(

Peter Fisk said...

I've mentioned to J.L. in the past that I think there should be an epic film (or a good TV miniseries) made about all the major events of the 19th, and he should be involved in the script.

Derek "A Staunch Whig" Beck said...

I find this to be strange news: the American Film Company, the new history-geared company behind this year's film "The Conspirator" (their 1st film), has just bought the rights to David Hackett Fischer's "Paul Revere's Ride". They are just starting to draft the screenplay. It seems odd then that another company would deliberately try to make the same movie, as it usually waters down the box office values of both. Unless Disney just has a bone to pick.

Full disclosure: I'm a filmmaker and historian, and wrote "1775" and am seeking a publisher for the specific reason to one day turn it into a miniseries. (more at http://www.1775thebook.com)

J. L. Bell said...

I suspect that all the political interest in America’s founding made a lot of Hollywood people look at possible properties, and the story of 18-19 April stands out for its seeming straightforwardness. Fischer’s book even talks about the event’s Aristotlean unity, as I recall. And I think it’s been optioned before, with nothing coming of it.

RFuller said...

IIRC, Stephen Spielberg wanted to shoot a film about Lexington and Concord a while back, but demurred, since Wolfgang Emmerich's "The Patriot" had done so poorly at the box office, (as it deserved...), as well as due to the drubbing Spielberg himself took for his playing fast and loose with the facts in his historical film "Amistad".