Frederick Forsyth wrote a classic tale of international intrigue called Day of the Jackal. In 1973, it became a chilling classic film with the same name. In 1997, the film was remade as The Jackal: Forsyth was so outraged by the vandalism of his work that he had his name removed from the credits.
Here’s how I imagine this woeful, messy, ridiculous remake of the chilling classic Day of the Jackal came about.
A flashy restaurant somewhere in Hollywood (int, day). At a table are the The Jackal’s writers, Kenneth Ross and Chuck Pfarrer, and its stars, Bruce Willis and Richard Gere.
Bruce Willis: So, thanks for coming guys! It’s great to see you again, Bob, Don.
Kenneth Ross: Um, I’m Kenneth. And this is Chuck.
BW: Great! That’s just great. Listen, guys, Richard and I have been talking and we’ve come up with a way to make the script a lot better.
Richard Gere: Oh, yeah. A WHOLE LOT better.
Chuck Pfarrer: “Better”?
BW (leaning in confidingly): Listen, guys, we love your script. LOVE your script. Don’t we Richard?
RG (nodding vigorously): Oh, yeah. I love it so much it’s wrong. Like, I’ve had Cindy Crawford, but man oh man – your script is like…
BW: OK, Richard, OK. Listen guys, we adore all that stuff you’re doing with the Cold War setting and having me be a rogue American double agent and Richard play an actual American and what not. But we don’t think it’s making the most of your biggest assets, am I right? Me and Richard! Like, listen guys, did you know that Richard is like the male Meryl Streep? I’m serious. Do your Irish accent for Jake and Angus, Richard.
RG: Shure an’ beggorah, oim Oirish!
BW: Woah. Woah. That is like … holy shit, man. Liam Neeson couldn’t do an Irish accent that good.
BW: That is not a diss of Liam. What a beautiful man.
BW: But suck ass at accents. So anyway, we’re thinking, right: let’s use these gifts. We’re actors; we should be acting. And this is a movie filled with terrorists and explosions and all that right-on stuff, but it strikes me that there is room for CHARACTERS in there. Characters who are, maybe, Irish. For example.
RG: I’m a terrorist. Fine. But what if I’m an IRISH terrorist? There are loads of those in Ireland, right?
BW: Fuck yeah, there are.
CP: And you’re in an American prison because …?
RG: Shit, that’s your job! You put me in prison any way you want. You’re the writers, and I respect that as a fellow artist. I would NEVER, I swear to you, try to tell you how to create. But I figure I’ve met my beautiful Basque ex-girlfriend during some sort of international terrorist convention or some such …
BW: … where you both meet The Jackal …
(Gere and Willis high-five.)
RG: You know it, baby! And The Jackal has betrayed us during an arms deal in Libya and shoots my girlfriend, and she was pregnant and lost our baby, and that’s why I’m so set on chasing him down. But she lives, and marries some other guy while I’m in prison on whatever thing it is that you two dream up, and then Sidney Poitier comes and gets me out of prison to help him chase down The Jackal. So that’s when I get to practically make out with her right in front of her husband and her kids, ‘cause y’know. I’m Richard Gere. She’s not over me, right?
BW: Bitch’d better not be! (Gere and Willis high-five again.)
KC: Basque? But Mathilda May is French. We’ve developed quite an elaborate though highly plausible backstory about Richard’s character having trained as a patisserie chef in Paris during his youth before joining the secret service to explain why he’s married to a French woman.
BW: Well, we called her, and it turns out that she’s always wanted to do her Basque accent. Between you and me, it’s not quite as good as Richard’s Irish accent, but … pfft. Chicks, right?
RG (through a mouthful of food): That thing about us being married is obviously not going to work now, so you might need to rewrite those scenes. And the ones that refer to me as a disgraced secret service agent. Oh, and Diane Venora would like you to make her a Russian army major instead of the First Lady’s American body guard.
KR: Let me guess: despite being from Connecticut, Diane has a great Russian accent she’s always wanted to use, but it’s not quite as good as your Irish accent?
BW: (points finger guns at the writers and winks)
RG: Since there isn’t a scene where we have sex, I’d like you to make clear that Diane’s character has been absolutely desperate to jump me by having her die in my arms in a way that implies she’s experiencing the ultimate sexual peak.
CP: Of course, Mr Gere. May I ask if Mr Poitier is going to want the nationality of his character changed so that he can do an accent?
RG: No, Sid’s all cool with playing an American. I guess he just doesn’t have it in him to stretch that far anymore. But he does want a scene where he sprints across a crowded public space and tackles someone.
CP: Sprints? Tackles? Sidney Poitier is in his 60s!
KR: Chuck – please. Is there anything else?
RG: Do it, Bruce.
BW: Aw, shit. I can’t, man …
RG: You can.
BW: No way, man. Your accent is so good, I’d be embarrassed.
RG: Bullshit, man. Bullshit. Do it.
BW: Ohhhkay (deep breath). It’s a greet dee to be Kenadian, eh?
RG: God. God, that’s amazing. Damn. Didn’t you guys think that was amazing?
CP: You would like us to rewrite your character as a Canadian with a Welsh accent?
BW: No! Fuck no, man. Canadians are pussies. Who ever heard of a kick ass Canadian? Shit. And I don’t want to do a Welsh accent – let’s not get crazy. Just lemme do the Canadian accent I just did. I want you guys to do some scenes in Montreal. Where I get to pretend to be Canadian. Because I’m an awesome master of disguise. And also, because I think this will totally blow people’s minds, I wanna kiss a dude.
BW: As part of my mastery of disguises, I pick a guy up in a gay bar. I kiss him, but I don’t go home with him because, y’know, The Jackal is not gay.
BW: So I take his business card and hook up with him later in the film, when I break into his house and kill him by shooting him multiple times.
BW: I told you man – The Jackal isn’t gay! It’s the best way of stressing how not gay he is.
KR: With all due respect, that seems unnecessary to me, and very homophobic.
RG: How the hell do you figure that? Bruce is going to kiss a dude. It’s a nod to the bathhouse scene in the original film, geddit? And I’m going to be trapped in a subway tunnel between two trains travelling in opposite directions, and I hang on to the signal lights to stop myself being sucked into the slipstream. We’ll film it from above so that it totally looks like I’m having sex with the signal lights.
BW: Awesome! By the way, I look really suave in a white captain’s hat, so I’d like a long extended sequence of me wearing one of those and sailing a yacht.
CP: Fine. Whatever.
BW: I don’t like that Jack Black kid either, the jerk playing the stoner who builds my cannon. Let’s change the scene where I pay him for his work, shake his hand and leave to a scene where I use him for target practice and blow him to smithereens.
KR and CP (in unison): I’ll write that scene!
BW: Look guys, we appreciate your help on this. Seriously, you’ve been great. And don’t worry, I won’t do my smirking thing.
KR and CP: …
BW: Don’t worry, relax. I know that people have noticed the smirking thing, so I’m going to try this other thing where I purse my lips like I’m permanently sucking on a lemon.
RG: OK, Bruce, we’ve gotta bounce. Sorry Kip and Jake, we’ve got a paintball game with Martin Scorsese we’ve gotta get to. But thanks so much for hearing us out – looking forward to reading the redraft!
BW: Keep it real, guys. Later.
Bruce Willis and Richard Gere exit.
CP: Did those bastards just leave us with the bill?