Getty Images
Getty Images

9 Directors Who Remade Their Own Films

Getty Images
Getty Images

Remaking classic films for modern audiences is nothing new, but it seems as if Hollywood studios are churning out more remakes than originals every year. Usually, new directors are brought on to remake older films—but occasionally, the same director who made the original will be given the chance to remake his or her own work. Here are nine directors who did just that.

1. Yasujiro Ozu

Original Film: A Story of Floating Weeds (1934)

Remake: Floating Weeds (1959)

To take advantage of modern filmmaking technology such as sound and color cinematography, Yasujiro Ozu remade his 1934 silent film A Story of Floating Weeds in 1959 and called it Floating Weeds. While Ozu re-visited the same themes, stories, and artistic flourishes from film to film over his 35-year career, Floating Weeds is a more delicate and flavorful film than the original black and white version.

2. Michael Haneke

Original Film: Funny Games (1997)

Remake: Funny Games (2007)

In 2007, Michael Haneke released a shot-for-shot remake of his 1997 Austrian psychological thriller for American audiences. It featured a new cast—Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, and Brady Corbet—and relocated the setting from Austria to Long Island, New York. The original is in German, and the remake in English. Aside from those changes, both versions of Funny Games are exactly the same, and involve a wealthy family being held hostage and tortured with sadistic and vicious physical and psychological attacks.

3. Michael Mann

Original Film: L.A. Takedown (1989)

Remake: Heat (1995)

In 1989, Michael Mann wrote and directed a made-for-TV movie called L.A. Takedown for NBC. The original screenplay for the flick was 180 pages, which Mann had to cut down to 110 pages to fit its TV-timeslot.

After the success of The Last of the Mohicans in 1992, Mann returned to L.A. Takedown and elaborated on its narrative, characters, and themes; it became Heat, which was released theatrically in 1995. Heat is a layered film with several subplots and deeper characters, whereas L.A. Takedown is simpler and more straightforward.

4. George Sluizer

Original Film: Spoorloos (1988)

Remake: The Vanishing (1993)

When the Dutch film Spoorloos (which translates to Without a Trace) was released in 1988, it was a critical and commercial success—not just in the Netherlands, but around the world. It received top awards and accolades from top film critics and organizations, and Hollywood recruited the original director, George Sluzer, to make an English version of the film for American audiences. That film, called The Vanishing, was poorly received for its lack of nuance, broad characters, and its new (happy) ending. To many cinephiles and film critics, The Vanishing is a pale comparison to Sluzer's original.

5. Cecil B. DeMille

Original Film: The Ten Commandments (1923)

Remake: The Ten Commandments (1956)

Director Cecil B. DeMille didn't shy away from large-scale set pieces, over-populated crowds, and giant film productions. In 1956, he returned to his original 1923 silent epic The Ten Commandments with the intent of making a bigger and grander version. The Ten Commandments remake featured heavyweight actors including Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, and Edward G. Robinson, but also took advantage of new filmmaking technology such as eye-popping Technicolor, sizzling sound, and award-winning special effects.

6. Takashi Shimizu

Original Film: Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)

Remake: The Grudge (2004)

The third film in director Takashi Shimizu's Ju-on series, Ju-on: The Grudge, was such a hit in Japan that it got the attention of major American movie studios. Sony Pictures Entertainment commissioned Shimizu to remake his original film for American audiences.

The American remake focused on only one of the original film’s six interconnected short vignettes and starred Sarah Michelle Gellar, Bill Pullman, and Jason Behr. The Grudge remake received a mixed critical response, but managed to spawn a new American film series with two subsequent sequels.

7. Ole Bornedal

Original Film: Nattevageten (1994)

Remake: Nightwatch (1997)

In 1997, director Ole Bornedal released an American remake to his 1994 genre film Nattevageten, which translates to Nightwatch. The English-language version was almost a shot-for-shot remake of the Danish original, but starred Ewan McGregor as the university student who takes a job at a morgue as a night watchman; Bornedal shared screenwriting credits with filmmaker Steven Soderbergh. The remake was not as well received as the original, however; critics believed the new film was too shiny and glossy.

8. Alfred Hitchcock

Original Film: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

Remake: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

Alfred Hitchcock’s 51-year career spanned many eras of movie-making, but perhaps the best example of the director's progression as a true master of suspense is The Man Who Knew Too Much: the original 1934 film and its remake, released 22 years later in 1956.

While the original has its merits with a resourceful heroine played by Edna Best and a very effective villain played by Peter Lorre, the American remake is far more polished and intricate, with Doris Day and James Stewart in the main roles. Although Day is more passive than Best and the villain is not as memorable as the original film’s, The Man Who Knew Too Much remake is Hitchcock’s favorite between the two films.

In the legendary Alfred Hitchcock biography by French director and film critic François Truffaut, Hitchcock said of the two films, "Let's say the first version is the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional.”

9. John Woo

Original Film: Once a Thief (1991)

Remake: Once a Thief (1996)

Hong Kong action director John Woo remade his 1991 crime film Once a Thief as a made-for-TV movie for the Fox Network in 1996. While both versions showcased John Woo’s talent for creating breathtaking action as well as lighthearted comedy and romance, the 1996 made-for-TV remake also served as a backdoor TV pilot for a new series.

Ultimately, Fox passed on the John Woo TV series, but Canadian CTV Television Network ordered 22 episodes of the crime family action series in 1997. Billed as John Woo’s Once a Thief, the TV series was canceled after one season in 1998.

Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images
60 Years Later, a Lost Stanley Kubrick Script Has Been Found
Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images
Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images

A “lost” screenplay co-written by famed filmmaker Stanley Kubrick has been found after 60 years, Vulture reports.

The screenplay is an adaptation of Stefan Zweig’s novella Burning Secret, which Vulture describes as a reverse Lolita (plot summary for those who forgot high school English class: a man enters a relationship with a woman because of his obsession with her 12-year-old daughter). In Burning Secret, a man befriends an adolescent boy in order to seduce his mother. Zweig’s other works have inspired films like Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel (which the director claims he "stole" from Zweig's novels Beware of Pity and The Post-Office Girl).

Kubrick’s screenplay adaptation is co-written by novelist Calder Willingham and dated October 24, 1956. Although the screenplay bears a stamp from MGM’s screenwriting department, Nathan Abrams—the Bangor University professor who discovered the script—thinks it’s likely the studio found it too risqué for mass audiences.

“The child acts as an unwitting go-between for his mother and her would-be lover, making for a disturbing story with sexuality and child abuse churning beneath its surface,” Abrams told The Guardian. It's worth noting, however, that Kubrick directed an adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita in 1962, which MGM distributed, and it was also met with a fair share of controversy.

Abrams said the screenplay for Burning Secret is complete enough that it could be created by filmmakers today. He noted that the discovery is particularly exciting because it confirms speculations Kubrick scholars have had for decades.

“Kubrick aficionados knew he wanted to do it, [but] no one ever thought it was completed,” Abrams told The Guardian.

The Guardian reports that Abrams found the screenplay while researching his book Eyes Wide Shut: Stanley Kubrick and the Making of His Final Film. The screenplay is owned by the family of one of Kubrick’s colleagues.

[h/t Vulture]

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
12 Surprising Facts About Robin Williams
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA

Robin Williams had a larger-than-life personality. On screen and on stage, he embodied what he referred to as “hyper-comedy.” Offscreen, he was involved in humanitarian causes and raised three children—Zak, Zelda, and Cody. On July 16, HBO debuts the documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, directed by Marina Zenovich. The film chronicles his rise on the L.A. and San Francisco stand-up comedy scenes during the 1970s, to his more dramatic roles in the 1980s and '90s in award-winning films like Dead Poets Society; Good Morning, Vietnam; Awakenings; The Fisher King; and Good Will Hunting. The film also focuses on August 11, 2014, the date of his untimely death. Here are 12 surprising facts about the beloved entertainer.


A still from 'Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind' (2018)

After leaving Juilliard, Robin Williams found himself back in his hometown of San Francisco, but he couldn’t find work as an actor. Then he saw something for a comedy workshop in a church and decided to give it a shot. “So I went to this workshop in the basement of a Lutheran church, and it was stand-up comedy, so you don’t get to improvise with others, but I started off doing, ostensibly, it was just like improvising but solo," he told NPR. "And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ [I started] building an act from there."


In 2001, Williams visited Koko the gorilla, who passed away in June, at The Gorilla Foundation in Northern California. Her caregivers had shown her one of his movies, and she seemed to recognize him. Koko repeatedly signed for Williams to tickle her. “We shared something extraordinary: laughter,” Williams said of the encounter. On the day Williams died, The Foundation shared the news with Koko and reported that she fell into sadness.


In 1974, photographer Daniel Sorine captured photos of two mimes in New York's Central Park. As it turned out, one of the mimes was Williams, who was attending Juilliard at the time. “What attracted me to Robin Williams and his fellow mime, Todd Oppenheimer, was an unusual amount of intensity, personality, and physical fluidity,” Sorine said. In 1991, Williams revisited the craft by playing Mime Jerry in Bobcat Goldthwait’s film Shakes the Clown. In the movie, Williams hilariously leads a how-to class in mime.


As a teen, Lisa Jakub played Robin Williams’s daughter Lydia Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. “When I was 14 years old, I went on location to film Mrs. Doubtfire for five months, and my high school was not happy,” Jakub wrote on her blog. “My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a ‘non-traditional’ student. So, during filming, they kicked me out.”

Sensing Jakub’s distress over the situation, Williams typed a letter and sent it to her school. “A student of her caliber and talent should be encouraged to go out in the world and learn through her work,” he wrote. “She should also be encouraged to return to the classroom when she’s done to share those experiences and motivate her classmates to soar to their own higher achievements … she is an asset to any classroom.”

Apparently, the school framed the letter but didn’t allow Jakub to return. “But here’s what matters from that story—Robin stood up for me,” Jakub wrote. “I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.”


Anson Williams, Marion Ross, and Don Most told The Hallmark Channel that a different actor was originally hired to play Mork for the February 1978 Happy Days episode “My Favorite Orkan,” which introduced the alien character to the world. “Mork & Mindy was like the worst script in the history of Happy Days. It was unreadable, it was so bad,” Anson Williams said. “So they hire some guy for Mork—bad actor, bad part.” The actor quit, and producer Garry Marshall came to the set and asked: “Does anyone know a funny Martian?” They hired Williams to play Mork, and from September 1978 to May 1982, Williams co-headlined the spinoff Mork & Mindy for four seasons.


Actor Robin Williams poses for a portrait during the 35th Annual People's Choice Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California
Michael Caulfield, Getty Images for PCA

In 1988, Williams made his professional stage debut as Estragon in the Mike Nichols-directed Waiting for Godot, which also starred Steve Martin and F. Murray Abraham. The play was held off-Broadway at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. The New York Times asked Williams if he felt the show was a career risk, and he responded with: “Risk! Of never working on the stage again! Oh, no! You’re ruined! It’s like you're ruined socially in Tustin,” a town in Orange County, California. “If there’s risk, you can’t think about it,” he said, “or you’ll never be able to do the play.”

Williams had to restrain himself and not improvise during his performance. “You can do physical things,” he said, “but you don’t ad lib [Samuel] Beckett, just like you don’t riff Beethoven.” In 1996, Nichols and Williams once again worked together, this time in the movie The Birdcage.


The 1992 success of Aladdin, in which Williams voiced Genie, led to more celebrities voicing animated characters. According to a 2011 article in The Atlantic, “Less than 20 years ago, voice acting was almost exclusively the realm of voice actors—people specifically trained to provide voices for animated characters. As it turns out, the rise of the celebrity voice actor can be traced to a single film: Disney’s 1992 breakout animated hit Aladdin.” Since then, big names have attached themselves to animated films, from The Lion King to Toy Story to Shrek. Williams continued to do voice acting in animated films, including Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Happy Feet, and Happy Feet 2.


In March 1998, Williams won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. In 2011, Williams appeared on The Graham Norton Show, and Norton asked him what it was like to win the award. “For a week it was like, ‘Hey congratulations! Good Will Hunting, way to go,'” Williams said. “Two weeks later: ‘Hey, Mork.’”

Then Williams mentioned how his speech accidentally left out one of the most important people in his life. “I forgot to thank my mother and she was in the audience,” he said. “Even the therapist went, ‘Get out!’ That was rough for the next few years. [Mom voice] ‘You came through here [points to his pants]! How’s the award?’”


At this year’s 25th anniversary screening of Schindler’s List, held at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Steven Spielberg shared that Williams—who played Peter Pan in Spielberg’s Hook—would call him and make him laugh. “Robin knew what I was going through, and once a week, Robin would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone,” Spielberg said. “I would laugh hysterically, because I had to release so much.”


During a June 2018 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Ethan Hawke recalled how, while working on Dead Poets Society, Williams was hard on him. “I really wanted to be a serious actor,” Hawke said. “I really wanted to be in character, and I really didn’t want to laugh. The more I didn’t laugh, the more insane [Williams] got. He would make fun of me. ‘Oh this one doesn't want to laugh.’ And the more smoke would come out of my ears. He didn’t understand I was trying to do a good job.” Hawke had assumed Williams hated him during filming.

After filming ended, Hawke went back to school, but he received a surprising phone call. It was from Williams’s agent, who—at Williams's suggestion—wanted to sign Hawke. Hawke said he still has the same agent today.


In February 1988, Williams told Rolling Stone how he sometimes still had to audition for roles. “I read for a movie with [Robert] De Niro, [Midnight Run], to be directed by Marty Brest,” Williams said. “I met with them three or four times, and it got real close, it was almost there, and then they went with somebody else. The character was supposed to be an accountant for the Mafia. Charles Grodin got the part. I was craving it. I thought, ‘I can be as funny,’ but they wanted someone obviously more in type. And in the end, he was better for it. But it was rough for me. I had to remind myself, ‘Okay, come on, you’ve got other things.’”

In July 1988, Universal released Midnight Run. Just two years later, Williams finally worked with De Niro, on Awakenings.


Actors Robin Williams (L) and Billy Crystal pose at the afterparty for the premiere of Columbia Picture's 'RV' on April 23, 2006 in Los Angeles, California
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Starting in 1986, Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg co-hosted HBO’s Comic Relief to raise money for the homeless. Soon after Williams’s death, Crystal went on The View and spoke with Goldberg about his friendship with Williams. “We were like two jazz musicians,” Crystal said. “Late at night I get these calls and we’d go for hours. And we never spoke as ourselves. When it was announced I was coming to Broadway, I had 50 phone messages, in one day, from somebody named Gary, who wanted to be my backstage dresser.”

“Gary” turned out to be Williams.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind premieres on Monday, July 16 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.


More from mental floss studios