Although the bulk of film adaptations from television’s past have failed to ignite the box office in recent years, Warner Bros. trots out an update of the cop series “Starsky and Hutch” more than 25 years after the show premiered on ABC.
“The whole point of making a movie based on a television show is to take the premise and expand it into a fully integrated feature-length story that allows the creators to do sequences and visuals that they just aren’t capable of doing on a TV-sized budget and time schedule.”
-Garth Franklin, Editor of Dark Horizons, in 2002
Despite the show’s original run lasting just four years, it has culled a devoted following through reruns on cable and the current nostalgia trend towards the television series of that era. As one fan site puts it, “the pair of unorthodox, streetwise detectives and their souped-up hot rod Torino have become icons of disco style and violent-but-blood-free American television. Just a few notes of the ‘wakka-chicka’ theme song is enough to transport any child of the 70’s back to those Wednesday evenings parked in front of the tube.” Interestingly, the original ending to the series killed off one of the detectives before it was deemed “too depressing,” switching to a more saccharine scene.
Scheduled as of this moment for a release in 2004, the film has been moving steadily for a March filming date. Ben Stiller is set to topline the picture as street-wise Det. Dave Starsky, while Owen Wilson draws the part of soft-spoken Det. Ken ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson and Snoop Dogg inherits Antonio Fargas’s mantle as of the police snitch called Huggy Bear.
Now that it has its principals committed, the production begins its search for secondary leads. In a FilmJerk.com first, the Zebrathree has been put out to find several colorful characters, including their nemesis for this case, Reese Feldman.
In order of how they will be billed, they include:
- Described “a lanky and funny badass,” Reese Feldman is in his thirties. Described as a “yuppie,” the character graduated from Harvard University, where he headed an on-campus drug operation and has yet to hang up his urban entrepreneurial boots. Feldman owns an investment company, which is a front for a nefarious cocaine operation- And he will do anything to protect his investment, including commit murder.
- Jerry Goldman and Kevin Richardson, Harvard graduates who both serve as Feldman’s partners in crime and shared Reese’s passion for dealing drugs on campus. Both are good friends with Feldman’s family, and serve as lieutenants in his cocaine operations in the current day. Goldman is described as good-looking, intelligent, savvy, while Richardson is described as slick. In one key scene, Goldman confronts Feldman about the two cops that have been snooping around their lives and asking a lot of questions. Richardson is more nervous when Starsky and Hutch start digging into their operations.
- Starsky and Hutch’s no-nonsense, by-the-book superior remains Police Chief Doby, whose bark is worse than his bite. He is listed as being a 55-year-old African American. Doby assigns Hutch as Starsky’s a new partner in an effort to improve his job performance; later, when they appear to have bungled things, he threatens to turn over their case to another officer, but is cajoled into giving them one more chance. In the series, the character of Capt. Harold Dobey (note the slight last name change) was played by Bernie Hamilton.
- While only having seven scenes in the film, the role of Big Earl is a critical one. A big fat, bald Aryan biker, he runs with a motorcycle gang called “The Bay City Jokers.” Earl, who is secretly working for Reese, lies about not knowing who supplied him with the dope and later squeals to his cronies that Hutch and Starsky are cops. He later drives the detectives to the auto wrecker where he is under orders to dispose of them and the Grand Torino.
- When the film begins, Hutchinson has another partner, by the name of Parnell– taking a page from the original “Lethal Weapon,” Hutch is reassigned the opening scenes. Listed as being a rugged, daredevil partner, he is also on the take. Parnell, who often will break out into hijinks, is a skilled mentor on how to have more fun while exercising less responsibility. But when the department gets wise to his shenanigans, his reign with Hutch comes to an abrupt end. As he is only in three scenes, this is listed as a great cameo opportunity- what strikes me here, why not enlist Paul Michael Glaser or David Soul for this role, to entice the former series’ fanbaser
- In the film’s second act, a suspicious, blue-collar Korean character by the name of Chau is hired to rig Starsky’s Grand Torino with a bomb. The two protagonists track him down to his shabby apartment where he sics his young son on them. During a wacky interrogation by Starsky, he begins to fear for his life. But once he and Hutch begin chatting amicably in Korean, Chau reveals all he knows about the mystery guy who paid him for the job. He appears in 5 scenes.
- Willis, a 9-year-old African-American kid, Hutch’s neighbor. He is listed as cute and endearing, but not so well-mannered. Unfortunately, he is hospitalized after getting in the path of a bomb meant for Hutch.
There are also other parts that the casting directors are auditioning, including a smart-aleck cop named Manetti who serves as a foil for his fellow detectives, and two female versions of Starsky and Hutch, who meet them at a nightclub. Interestingly, this leads to a menage a trois scene with Hutch (I don’t remember this from the original series).
Here’s to hoping this project comes out better than “I Spy,” in which the principals admitted to not even watching the source material. If you feel you are rightly suitable for any of these roles, please feel free to have your agent contact either the production company or the casting directors. With filming so close to happening, look for casting announcements soon.
Director: Todd Phillips
Producers: Alan Riche, Tony Ludwig, Stuart Cornfeld
Writers: Todd Phillips, Scot Armstrong
Casting Directors: Juel Bestrop, Jeanne McCarthy
Location: Los Angeles
Start Date: March 2003
Production Company: Red Hour Films
Distributor: Warner Bros.