‘A-Team’ director Joe Carnahan on remake craze: The era of ‘Taxi Driver’ risks is gone

April 23, 2010 | 12:00 a.m.

Liam Neeson in Ateam

Filmmaker Joe Carnahan, known for edgy and indie crime films, is joining the remake craze of Hollywood with his upcoming film “The A-Team” and there’s a bit of resignation in his voice when he talks about it.

“It’s getting tougher to lead out there with your chin and finance something that doesn’t have the loyalty of a fan base,” said Carnahan, whose debut feature “Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane” added some blood and guts to the 1998 Sundance Film Festival and was followed by his underworld explorations in “Narc” in 2002 and “Smokin’ Aces” in 2007.

Joe Carnahan

There’s strong advance word on “A-Team,” which arrives in June and stars Liam Neeson, Rampage Jackson, Jessica Biel and Bradley Cooper, but the maverick-minded Carnahan says he yearns for the days when studios would take dark gambles such as Martin Scorsese’s 1976 classic “Taxi Driver.”

“We’re not in the era when you can make a picture at Sony about a disturbed, delusional, psychotic cab driver who saves a 12-year-old hooker and market it as a major Columbia release, “ the director said.  “There’s billions of dollars at stake now, and that fundamentally alters the DNA of how we make films.”

Carnahan said there’s clear logic behind the current run of remakes that includes “Clash of the Titans,” “Karate Kid” and “Red Dawn.

“You’re dealing with very shrewd corporate management and they’re looking for ‘sell-through,’ “ Carnahan said. ” ‘The A-Team’ has an established fan base. Those people who were watching in 1983 now have children and grandchildren. That’s a target audience that you can reach. It was huge overseas and huge in the U.K. and that’s years and years of basically free market saturation. That’s what spurs this recent spate of television shows being turned into features and it will continue if there’s a market for them. At some level, it’s a hedged bet.”

Carnahan said his film is no fawning remake or by-the-numbers revamp of the original, but he does feel the need to include some of the old touchstones, such as Neeson’s JohnHannibal” Smith uttering his old signature line, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

“Those things kept true to the source of Stephen J. Cannell,” Carnahan said referring to the television creator, “But there are no hard and fast rules …. What the fan wants is something entertaining that doesn’t step all over their childhood.”

– Rachel Abramowitz

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PHOTO: Top, Bradley Cooper and Liam Neeson in “The A-Team” (Fox). Middle, Joe Carnahan in “Narc” days (Getty) 

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