Luca Guadagnino to direct 'Scarface' remake: how did we finally get here?

Tom Beasley
Luca Guadagnino will direct the remake of 'Scarface'. (Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images/Universal)

It’s finally official. Call Me By Your Name and Suspiria director Luca Guadagnino will helm the long-awaited reboot of the 1983 gangster classic Scarface for Universal — working from a script penned by the Coen Brothers.

The announcement via Variety marks a new — and hopefully concluding — chapter in what has been a long and troubled development story.

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Brian De Palma’s iconic 80s gangster epic was, of course, itself a remake. Helmed by Howard Hawks, the 1932 version of Scarface followed the rise of Italian immigrant Tony Camonte through the Chicago underworld. That character became Cuban immigrant Tony Montana, played by Al Pacino, for the 1983 film. The movie follows Montana’s blood-splattered rise from nothing to the top of the Miami cocaine trade.

Despite strong box office numbers, Scarface received negative critical reviews and even a Razzie nomination. It did please the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, though, enough to be nominated for three Golden Globes, including Best Actor for Pacino. It’s since then that the movie has found its true impact, becoming one of the most famous crime movies ever made.

Strange Beginnings

Al Pacino as Tony Montana in 'Scarface'. (Credit: Universal)

In 2001, the notion of a direct Scarface sequel was mooted. Rapper Cuban Link was attached to pen the story and star in the film, which was given the title Son of Tony. In 2005, however, the project was mothballed when Cuban Link claimed there was “a lot of politics behind the movie” and that rights and creative control had become an issue.

There was no news on a Scarface follow-up until 2011, when Universal Pictures announced that a rebooted take on the movie was in development. It would take elements from the 1932 and 1983 versions of the story, following an immigrant who becomes an underworld kingpin in pursuit of the American Dream.

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David Ayer, who would go on to direct Suicide Squad, was hired to write a script and, by 2013, Universal was reported by Deadline to be “very high” on the current draft. David Yates, best known for the later Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts movies, was in the frame as a potential director.

The Wilderness Years

Antoine Fuqua speaks on stage during the 47th AFI Life Achievement Award Gala on June 6, 2019. (Photo by Jean-Baptiste Lacroix/AFP via Getty Images)

The Scarface project never really went away in the subsequent years, with a gradual drip-feed of news about the movie — largely in the form of personnel changes. Multiple writers, including Jonathan Herman (Straight Outta Compton), Paul Attanasio (Quiz Show, Donnie Brasco) and Terence Winter (The Wolf of Wall Street, Boardwalk Empire) were attached to make passes at the script.

Chilean arthouse darling Pablo Larraín was in discussions to direct the film in 2014, with Attanasio’s script set in modern day Los Angeles and following the criminal rise of a Mexican immigrant.

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The project seemed to get closest to fruition with The Equalizer director Antoine Fuqua, who was first discussed in August 2016. Fuqua left the project in early 2017 as a result of commitments to The Equalizer 2, with Diego Luna suggested to play the leading role — hot on the heels of his role as Cassian Andor in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The Coen Brothers were attached to write the new take and an August 2018 release date was announced.

Fuqua returned to the mix in March 2018 after delays left his schedule clear, just five months before the scheduled release which, unsurprisingly, the movie did not meet. The filmmaker told Hollywood Reporter he was trying to convince Equalizer star Denzel Washington to appear in the movie. Filming was scheduled for October, but then the trail went cold.

Enter Guadagnino

Luca Guadagnino attends the Cocktail at Fendi Couture Fall Winter 2019/2020 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images for Fendi)

The Scarface remake lives again, now Guadagnino has stepped in to replace Fuqua in the director’s chair. The script in play is a new version written once again by the Coen Brothers, described as a “reimagining” of both the 1932 and 1983 movies.

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This would certainly mark Guadagnino’s biggest movie to date and fans would be wise not to expect a routine remake. The director’s 2018 remake of horror classic Suspiria was an unusual, flamboyant ride and so there seems little chance he will travel the path of least resistance with Scarface.

The revolving door of personnel on Scarface appears to have settled — at least for now.

No release date or schedule has been announced for the new Scarface project, but Guadganino is currently busy with HBO series We Are Who We Are and a reimagined version of Lord of the Flies, as well as the potential sequel to Call Me By Your Name.