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Todd Phillips Swindles ‘The Gambler’ from Martin Scorsese

Written by on August 20, 2012 

As he just began shooting The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese must have remembered that, no, he can’t direct every film on his slate. The first casualty of his realigned priorities is no surprise: The Gambler, a remake of the James Caan-led 1974 drama — as well as, technically, an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky‘s novella — in which an English teacher sinks to awful depths when his gambling addiction takes hold. Leonardo DiCaprio, in a little factoid you surely knew without even looking, was even being considered to star.

That’s out the window, and THR now informs us the project has come into the hands of Todd Phillips. The Hangover helmer, now already in talks, is Paramount’s new top pick for The Gambler, which William Monahan has already completed his screenplay for. (The biggest alteration mentioned here is a switch from New York City to Los Angeles, with the character now teaching English at UCLA.) A clever visual reference to Casino in the original Hangover notwithstanding, it’s a transition you wouldn’t think of off the top of your head — but it does make sense.

After all, Phillips‘ comedies tend to have a much darker bent than your typical studio entry — compare the conclusions of his movies to the works of, for instance, Judd Apatow, for all proper evidence — with his recent franchise also having a certain emphasis on a city’s criminal underbelly. While The Gambler is a straight-out drama and will still be a heavier, darker story than three guys trying to find their missing friend, the guy’s prior work shows that it could work. With Monahan having done the screenplay, I’ll keep an ear out and some expectations relatively positive.

Is Phillips a smart pick to handle The Gambler?

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