A few months ago I was asked to consider directing a nearly note-for-note remake of the 1985 film VISION QUEST.
As someone who enjoyed the original in it?s day, I eagerly agreed to meet with the production company on the remake, Temple Hill, and tell them what I?d do with the film. Temple Hill makes big Hollywood films. You may have heard of some of them; MAZE RUNNER, TWILIGHT, FIRST MAN, LOVE SIMON, etc.
I like big Hollywood films and am eagerly working on getting my film THE WHITE ROOM made with Amblin Partners (a dream come true situation). In the interim, I?m trying to make other movies that come my way, like this one.
I knew I?d have to lay out a big bold plan on the table for Temple Hill to see how and why my vision for the remake would work. Namely how I?d make sure that the unrealistic and improbable relationships in from the 1985 film were challenged and that the story was contemporized ?in a big way.
I also wanted to tell Temple Hill about the unique idea I have about how to re-make an 80?s film ? a technique that has never been done before. So I went in for a meeting at the studio and told them what I?d do.
After thinking for the past 4 months about the vision I presented them, I need to get the idea out there in the world because it?s burning a hole in my brain. Don?t worry I already registered and copy-wrote the re-make premise. I?ve decided to share it here because even if I don?t get to make the film, I?d like to put some good creative energy out into the world.
So I?m here to share with you what I proposed ? and why I proposed it.
But first, for those who don?t know the 1985 version of VISION QUEST, it?s a coming-of-age film (based on Terry Davis? novel ?Vision Quest?) about high school wrestling starring Matthew Modine, Linda Fiorentino, Michael Schoeffling and Ronny Cox.
Modine, whose role as Louden Swain put him on the Hollywood radar, plays a Spokane high wrestler who falls in love with an older woman, an aspiring singer from New Jersey on her way to San Francisco.
If you?re wondering why she drove completely out of the way from NJ to Spokane before heading to LA, don?t worry about that, it?s not addressed or answered.
The 1985 film includes an appearance from Madonna, her first in a major motion picture, playing a singer at a local bar.
In the film Louden Swain (Modine) has just turned 18 and decides that he needs to do something truly meaningful in his life. He?s already THE BEST wrestler at school in his weight class but he embarks on a personal mission to drop two weight classes to challenge the area?s toughest opponent, Brian Shute ? the Bag Man ? a menacing three-time state champion from nearby rival Hoover HIgh School. The Bag Man has never been defeated. In Louden?s zeal to drop from 190 pounds to 168 pounds, and achieve personal glory (ignoring that wrestling is a team sport where individual wins add to your school?s total) and ignoring the wishes of his coach, his best friend Kuch, and the rest of his teammates ? Louden becomes VOCEL ? voluntary celibate (he?s a virgin anyway ? and a handsome, strapping 18 year old virgin which is made VERY CLEAR OFTEN in the film). These two choices disrupt the team around him and create health problems of his own.
Meanwhile Louden?s father has taken in a 28 year old bombshell named Carla who was passing through, on her way from Trenton New Jersey to Los Angeles. Carla?s car broke down on the outskirts of town and conveniently Louden?s father is a mechanic who can get the part for her broken car, but she?s gonna have to wait a week or two for the part to arrive (it?s the 80?s, things too longer). While she waits for the part for her car to arrive, Swain Senior gave her Louden?s old room upstairs in the house ? as Louden lives and trains in the basement.
Carla is headed to LaLa Land to make it as a singer but she?s never had the courage to perform an original song. She?s a damsel in distress ? and clearly not capable of taking care of herself or pursuing her dreams till the men of the Swain Family get involved.
Though Carla is 10 years older than Louden, and far more experienced and worldly, Louden?s shirtless roving and exercise regimes around the house turn Carla on.
While Carla is getting all hot and bothered for this virginal man ? Louden too wants to get with Carla and his lust causes him to lose sight of his goals to achieve personal glory in a new weight class ? while potentially losing the whole meet for his team.
Worse, Louden?s drastic weight loss (not eating, extreme workouts, etc) culminate in an unhealthy situation where he gets frequent nosebleeds. Meanwhile Carla gets a job as a bartender in town, where there just happened to be a temp position open.
Sexual tension continues to rise and finally the two admit their lust for each other. But then Carla realizes she is distracting Louden from his goal of personal glory. Not wanting Louden to both conquer her in bed AND forsake conquering The Bag Man on the mat ? Carla decides to move out of the Swain house (her car is now fixed) and continue to Los Angeles?
?.but not before seeing Louden?s big match where he pins The Bag Man in the final seconds of the match.
Phew. Okay, that?s the plot of the 1985 film. If you?re a reasonable person you?re thinking like me ?This story can?t exist in the world, it?s unrealistic in more ways than one, and it shows a completely impossible version of life, sex and relationships that wouldn?t be smart to show to audiences, especially young men.?
If you?re a reasonable person you too would know that there?s no place in today?s film cannon for a note-for-note remake of that story. That?s the biggest elephant in the room ? something my proposed re-make immediately addresses.
But before we get into my proposed remake I want to tell you what I knew about Temple Hill?s remake mandates going into the meeting:
1. Temple Hill wants their remake to have a FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS vibe and feel where the whole town needs a win and the sports team gives (or takes away) their hopes and dreams.
2. Temple Hill wants this to be a film for wide release ? a film for all audiences to enjoy. A classic studio movie.
In order to achieve those mandates we?d have to address two additional big elephants in the 2019 room.
- Wrestling isn?t a cool sport these days compared to basketball or football ? and most people don?t remember or know the original VISION QUEST movie ? except wrestlers everywhere who still celebrate and love the original (it?s already a cult classic to them).
- Wrestling?s popularity is hard to measure. We know that people wrestle everywhere but how do we tell a story about life, coming of age, community, etc where wrestling and competition provides the framework. That way the movie appeals to all audiences ? not just wrestlers and wrestling communities.
My proposed re-make found a way to use those aspects of the story as strengths ? and address the first and biggest elephant in the room about making a responsible film for contemporary audiences.
Here?s the idea I brought to Temple Hill.
Thesis: My 2019 remake will turn the 1985 original in a modern day cult classic by re-introducing it to audiences everywhere, by telling a socially and culturally responsible tale ? and at the same time reimagine the way we re-make films ? something that?s never been done before.
It?s 2019 in a middle class, blue collar small Iowa town wrestling with modernity and a changing America; the factories have all shut down, folks are moving towards bigger cities, life as we know it is up in the air.
Two high schoolers and best friends, Landon and King (our Louden and Kuch characters from 1985) lament the fact that the football program was cancelled two years ago and how they never got to play under the Friday Night Lights. They?re now seniors.
After their football program was cut, the school created a wrestling program. Less money, smaller team, less resources, etc. The team isn?t very good ? but Landon and King are okay on the mat. Well, passable. They win a few but lose most of them. They?re tired of losing most of the time ? just like everyone else is in this town.
Their discovery of a worn out VHS tape copy of the 1985 film VISION QUEST in an abandoned warehouse sets them on their path to glory?but they don?t know this yet.
Landon and King watch the VHS tape and think the plot of the 1985 movie is absurd. And because they?re modern teenage boys, they think the movie is just weird and very NOT cool. But still, because they?re wrestlers ? boys participating in an uncool sport that nobody knows or cares about ? they do think it?s pretty cool that their fall sport was once a big deal.
And the boys see the heart in the original film ? and they see themselves in the characters ? it?s King who first points out that even their names are so similar to the characters Louden and Kuch in the original. It?s only when they see an announcement on Facebook that the Iowa State Champ, and best wrestler and competition in their district ? Saber ? just got a full ride athletic scholarship to wrestle at the D1 level.
Could Saber be their Bag Man, like Shute was in the 1985 movie?? And is it weird that they found the VHS tape in an abandoned warehouse, in a similar manner to how the 1985 film begins?? Some of the parallels between their lives and the lives of the characters in this movie are uncanny.
They show the 1985 VHS tape their team ? all of whom laugh, cry, and cringe at the original. But something happens to them as they watch the 1985 film ? they begin to bond as a team for the first time. It?s not lost on the group that the plot of the original film is unrealistic and a male fantasy.
Landon suggests that this single copy of VISION QUEST is their new ?holy grail? ? and it will give them the strength they need to win ? and that the team and town could win glory. Of course he?s joking, but then they all kind of start buying into it.
The wrestling team begins quoting the film incessantly, driving everyone crazy at school, home, and their after school jobs. The wrestling team makes screen print t-shirts with the 80?s style VISION QUEST logo. They start listening to the songs from the 80?s featured in the film ? training to Lunatic Fringe by Red Rider, like the boys in the 1985 film.
Then two things happen.
King gets hurt and Landon has to step in and wrestle in his best friend?s weight class ? otherwise the team doesn?t stand a chance of winning. Someone can easily take Landon?s weight class but Landon is the only one who can cut weight and take King?s place.
And it?s not just taking King?s weight class at this match ? Landon is going to have to wrestle Saber, the Iowa State champ going out for the US Olympic Team.
At the same time Cara moves home to take care of her ailing mother who has Alzehimer?s. Cara, 28 (and whose name is strangely similar to Carla?s from the 1985 film) had been living in New York City, bartending while trying to start her songwriting career. Cara is the prodigal daughter of the town ? she was the most talented at everything back in her days, and she was a model student.
Some look at Cara and wonder if this means her hopes and dreams have been put aside forever. Cara is upbeat and positive though; doing what one must do. She?s a role model for anyone. But inside, she?s in pain ? afraid of her future and her songwriting career which she barely considers a career.
Of course Landon develops a crush on Cara who was his babysitter 15 years ago. But Cara isn?t one for 18 year old boys and laughs off Landon?s attempts to hit on her. Cara does tell him she?s more than happy to tell him a few things about how to be a good guy. Seems like Landon has more than one set of obstacles to overcome.
Eventually it?s Cara?s return to her hometown that will give her the storytelling material she needs to write an amazing song ? an anthem for both the team and the town. A song she?ll perform at an open mic night in town, trying out new material. There are no A&R scouts there, just the people from her community who propped her up and gave her love and support when she needed it.
Of course Landon barely makes weigh in as he cuts weight ? and worse yet, he?s struggling in practices. Before the big match against the reigning Iowa State Champs, the entire school re-creates, note for note ? the pep rally scene from the 1985 original film. Landon is nervous and knows he?s out of his league facing Saber. But for the first time he seems to be getting to know a girl he has a crush on, someone his own age.
The next day when the team shows up to visit the reigning Iowa State Champs they realize that their rivals too have a copy of the 1985 film VISION QUEST!! Their rivals come dressed in outfits from the 80?s, listening to the soundtrack ? the whole nine yards. They weren?t the only ones with a ?holy grail?. How will they ever stand a chance now??
In the end, Landon will come close but he won?t beat Saber. He did his best. And that?s what matters. In defeat he, and the rest of the team realize that the whole meet is all tied?.and there?s one other match to go.
Going into the final match to determine the winner of the whole meet ? the underdog team and all of their supporters gather to cheer on Scrub, the scrawniest kid on the team who has never won a match. But it?s come down to this match to determine who wins the meet.
And Scrub wins. Cheered to victory by his team and the entire community. A classic underdog story come to life. The team?s victory gives town something to cheer for because right now in America, no matter where you are, everyone needs a win.
That?s the idea I proposed months ago. And I still think it would make a great re-make.
I still believe that placing the original 1985 film into the remake, we could call on the best parts of the original story AND call out the unrealistic male fantasy elements, relationships and character/gender stereotypes ? all while supporting the studio mandate of making a film about a community inside a responsible and realistic coming of age story.
I also told Temple Hill they could re-release the 1985 film (on VHS!!), sell t-shirts and other merchandise based on the original property, make Snapchat and Facebook filters where kids could place themselves into 1985 era graphics and visuals, etc. Basically the studio could do everything they wanted to market TWO FILMS to audiences ? turning the original film into a cult classic.
I don?t know what Temple Hill thinks of my idea for the ?re-make? so I?ll just keep working on making my movies. Happy to be here doing what I love.