35 Promised Remakes of Documentaries That Still Haven’t Happened

By  · Published on February 26th, 2015

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Hollywood loves to remake documentaries because “directors of docs are allowing so much drama to be put into their stories that you experience them like a narrative.” That’s a ridiculously redundant reasoning from Focus Features acquisitions president Lia Buman in a new Hollywood Reporter article on the subject. It got me thinking that this old list is due for an update and reposting. There are actually a few such projects coming out this year, more than usual, and that could be good for some of the other long-promised (or threatened) titles highlighted down below.

One that has actually now happened is Robert Zemeckis’s The Walk, which is sort of a redo of Oscar winner Man on Wire. That comes out October 2nd. Another is Oliver Stone’s Snowden, which is enough of a remake of Citizenfour that it has someone (Melissa Leo) portraying filmmaker Laura Poitras. Look for that at Christmas. Also expected to release this year is the dramatic extension of the Oscar-winning short Freeheld, which will star Julianne Moore and Ellen Page as women fighting for the right to same-sex partner benefits. It’s possible we’ll also see David Gordon Green’s version of Our Brand Is Crisis, which I’d listed last year as still looking for a director. Now it’s in post-production.

They join a small circle of films that have already been made, including Party Monster, Grey Gardens, American Heart (Streetwise), Lords of Dogtown (Dogtown and Z Boys), Battle of the Year (Planet B-Boy), Rescue Dawn (based on Little Dieter Needs to Fly) and RKO 281 (based on The Battle Over Citizen Kane), plus films at least owing to preceding docs, such as Milk (The Times of Harvey Milk), Monster (both of Nick Broomfield’s Aileen Wuornos films), Munich (One Day in September), The Last King of Scotland (General Idi Amin Dada) and Full Metal Jacket (Basic Training).

There still remains a huge difference in the number of announced narrative remakes of docs and the number of actual narrative remakes of docs. The following is list of the much larger number of remakes that haven’t happened yet, whether they’ve been officially canceled or are simply in development hell. We will likely update this post again in the future with any necessary additions or news regarding the status of any mentioned.

20 Feet From Stardom

Promise: Multiple parties have been making claims on remaking elements of this story of backup singers. The doc’s distributor, Radius-TWC, reportedly has been clashing with Mick Jagger over the rights, the latter planning a TV series version, while Oprah Winfrey is somewhat relatedly producing a TV movie for her OWN network based on the life of subject Darlene Love.

Status: Unknown