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Exclusive: Big Willy and Denzel Together. Finally.

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | January 4, 2010 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | January 4, 2010 |

It’s a new year, and as we continue to bring you exclusive reports from our inside source, The Hollywood Cog, and others, I think it’s important to reiterate that much of the news we break involves projects very early in development. In most cases, these projects haven’t been announced yet (which is why it’s an “exclusive”). However, you should take in-development projects with a grain of salt — not because these projects aren’t in development (if we report it, it most certainly is), but because we’re jumping the queue, so to speak. Some of these projects being developed might never make it to the big screen; some may not even make it to the announcement stage. We are often given information about whether a project is a priority for a studio or not, in which case there’s a much better chance that it will make it to the screen (and we generally limit our reports to priority projects or projects in regular development that gain significant traction). Non-priority projects may spend years in development hell before going inactive or finally finding some momentum.

Moreover, as we wrote at length last month, just because an actor or a director is “attached” to a project does not mean that he or she will ultimately make the movie. Directors and talent can be replaced, dropped, or simply fall off at any point during the course of development.

That said, we do aim to cover projects that either look promising or might be of interest to our readers. Moreover, in-development projects offer plenty of excuses for incredulity or, in the rare case, a small amount of hope that the project will eventually be made.

Which brings me to the project in question, a remake of the 1974 film, Uptown Saturday Night, which originally starred Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier (it was also directed by Poitier). The fact that it might be remade might not come as too big a surprise — back in 2002, Will Smith’s production company, Overbrook Entertainment, purchased the remake rights to Uptown Saturday Night with the hope of putting together an all-star African-American version of Ocean’s 11. At the time, Smith had said he’s spoken to Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence about the possibility of starring.

However, since 2002, the project has basically been inactive. There’s been no public movement on the project. That is, until the middle of December, when Warner Brothers and Overbrook not only put the project back in motion — by putting out a call for a rewrite on an original script from Mark and Robb Cullen (Cop Out) — but by also attaching a name that hadn’t been mentioned in relation to the project yet: Denzel Washington.

Indeed, after The Hollywood Cog told me that Denzel and Will Smith were potentially starring in a remake of Uptown Saturday Night, I did a little diligence, and found this from an MTV interview back in June, which which seems to suggest that there’s more to this project that a couple of attached names burning up in development hell:

MTV’s Josh Horowitz chatted up Denzel Washington recently, in support of his starring role in this week’s summer action remake “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3.” When Josh asked Washington if there was a genre he’d never touched, he responded with the news that he’s working on some sort of comedy — maybe with an action bent — with Will Smith.

Of course, even if An Uptown Saturday Night is now a priority for Warner Brothers, it’s still got to be something of a longshot, since both Denzel and Will Smith are already attached to three dozen projects between them and because they haven’t even found anyone to rewrite the script, although the fact that there’s already one script (in addition to the original script) suggests that it could be finished in a matter of weeks or months. Still, the idea of these two Hollywood powerhouses starring in a movie together is more than intriguing, all the more so because it’s a remake of a African-American classic. This is one of those projects that I’d actually like to see happen.

For the unfamiliar, Uptown Saturday Night was a movie about two estranged friends, Steve Jackson (Smith) and Wardell Johnson (Washington), who meet up at a nightclub and get robbed of their wallets. The next morning they discover that one of their wallets contained a winning lottery ticket, and together they must recover their stolen property.

James Lassiter is producing and, currently, David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) is attached to direct, although everything (or nothing) could change up and until the project is officially announced.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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