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The Right and Wrong way to remake Highlander

HighlanderFew cult classics can claim to have as mixed a legacy, as rich a mythology or as devoted a fan base as Highlander. The classic 1986 sword-and-sorcery film, following the tale of powerful immortal warriors that have battled throughout time until only one remains, and notable for its awesome swordfights and a soundtrack by Queen, has inspired a fantastic TV show, several passable to god-awful sequels, as well as a number of novels and comic books, has countless fans, and the original movie is one of my personal favorites. For that reason, recent news has many fans talking about what could be the darkest chapter of the classic saga.
Highlander_IIOK, aside from that.

No, I am referring to recent news about the long talked about franchise reboot, and while rumors about the film have been whispered about for years, a couple of recent tidbits has many people more worried about the direction its going. The first is that Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, director of 28 Weeks Later, is in talks to direct, having finally backed down from his desire to remake The Crow, after popular outrage forced that project to be shelved. However, not having learned his lesson the first time, Fresnadillo suggested he would cast Ryan Reynolds as the lead, clearly not having seen Green Lantern, and upsetting many fans of the franchise in the process.

Like many other movie lovers, Hollywood’s habit of remaking beloved films is a subject of some frustration for me, especially when they bungle it so very often. While popular outrage may have saved The Crow, one need only remember the disastrous Conan the Barbarian remake, or the utterly cringe-worthy Karate Kid reboot. Given how much I loath so many of these cash grabs that butcher films I love, it may come as some surprise that, given the right moves, I could support a Highlander remake.
Highlander_RemakeYou see, as much as I hate to admit it, fan of the original film as I am, Highlander would be well suited for a remake. The original vision of the film was both darker and more violent then the final product, and many scripted scenes and concepts were canceled or never finished due to budget constraints, and a few others were lost in a fire. In addition, the Highlander mythos has grown leaps and bounds since then, and a reboot could both incorporate and condense some of it. If the script is well written, and the directors and actors well chosen, a remake could well be better than the original.

Which is why today, I give you my visions for the best and worst case scenarios for a potential Highlander remake. Given that the reboot is being handled by Summit Entertainment, there is a very real possibility they might just hand the Twilight cast swords and be done with it. Let us pray that if a remake does happen, it comes close to my best case scenario, because if made and handled properly, it could well be the best possible thing to happen to the Highlander franchise.
highlander2-is-trashAside from that of course. Let’s begin, shall we?

Conner MacLeod
christopher-lambert-highlander-kilt-swordDepending on who you ask, the casting of Conner MacLeod was one of the poorer casting choices made in the original, with the role going to legally blind Frenchman Christoper Lambert, who throughout the film speaks with a strange mix of a Scottish and French accent. So it goes without saying of you have a movie centered on an immortal Scotsman, someone who can pull off a convincing Scottish accent is a must, as are the acting chops to pull of playing a brooding, haunted loner with a gift for using a Katana.

Worst Case Scenario
ryan-reynolds-highlander-remakeThere are two big ways they could screw this up. One way, they cast a big name actor based solely on his name – a good example would be Ryan Reynolds, whom as Green Lantern proved, is a little out of his depth playing a leading action hero, and it would be a stretch to by him as a 500 year old Scotsman as is. The other is, given that Summit Entertainment is making the reboot, they cast whatever flavor of the month brooding hunk they can cast – if the thought of Robert Pattinson in Highlander doesn’t frighten you, I don’t know what will. One way, we get Van Wilder, the other way, we get Edward Cullen, and either would cut the head off this movie. However, I have just the man in mind to satisfy those wanting star power and indie cred…

Best Case Scenario
Ewan-McGregor-Highlander-remakeEwan McGregor may be one of the few people I can think of perfect for the role. He’s a superb actor, is a trained sword fighter, and is a proud Scotsman to boot, complete with brogue and kilt. While it’s been a few years since he’s stared in a major film, being one of the few bright spots in the Star Wars prequels gives him enough star power to headline the film without overpowering the movie, yet given his occasional indie film role, he would satisfy the snobs at Summit. There can only be one MacLeod, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better pick than McGregor.

ramirez_highlanderOn one hand, yet another weakness of the original was Sean Connery’s portrayal of MacLeod’s fellow Immortal and mentor figure Ramirez, with much of the criticism focused on Connery playing a Spaniard/Egyptian with a think Scottish accent. At the same time though, Connery’s performance was one of the major charms of the film as well, providing one of the all time great ‘aged mentor’ performances, and it proved an important step for Sean Connery transitioning to more mature roles. Any potential actor for the role should be witty, snarky, a little aged and out of shape, but not enough that he can’t convincingly wield a wicked blade. The ability to use a Spanish accent would be a superb bonus as well.

Worst Case Scenario

Pretty much any attempt to give the role to someone younger than age 45, or for someone who cannot physically pull of an ‘aged mentor’ role. Just as bad as casting some flavor of the month pretty boy as Conner would be a huge mistake, trying to give this role to anyone who could be on the cover of an entertainment magazine would be horribly miscast. While that may make the film less photogenic, if that is a concern, you have no business casting a Highlander movie.

Best Case Scenario

There are two actors perfect for Ramirez, depending on what tone you hope to strike with both the film and the character.
Mandy-Patinkin-Inigo-MontoyaThe first actor may be a surprise, as I guarantee some of you have never even heard of him: Mandy Patinkin, far better known by his most iconic role, Inigo Montoya. Having said that, I’m sure of few of you had a huge smile break across your face at the idea of an elderly Inigo Montoya schooling MacLeod in sword training. Patinkin as Ramirez would provide the same comical, yet stern mentorship in the blade and ways of the Immortals we got from Sean Connery, only this time with a convincing Spanish accent.
13thWarrior_Antonio_BanderasThe other possibility I had in mind would be far more suitable if you want a more serious tone for Ramirez or are going for a darker tone for the movie: Antonio Banderas. The role would be a match made in heaven for the proud Andalusian actor, whose heritage and past roles from Zorro to 13th Warrior make him well suited to play the ethnically ambiguous Immortal Ramirez. Plus, much like the role did for Sean Connery, it would allow Banderas to transition to bigger and more mature roles outside of the box he’s been typecast in, something he will likely never do voicing a cartoon cat.
Neeson as Ramirez?Of course, you could always go for Liam Neeson, but Neeson as a mentor figure has been beaten to death, plus why even have a remake if you’re going to cast a Celt as a Spaniard twice?

The Kurgan
The_Kurgan_HighlanderNow here we have a role so perfectly cast in the original, that it’s hard to picture anyone but Clancy Brown playing our intimidating antagonist. Anyone who will even attempt to be the new face of the Kurgan will have to be tall, physically imposing, completely menacing, all but growl his dialogue, and at the same time be able to act convincingly as a cold-blooded barbarian who lives for his next kill.

Worst Case Scenario
Kristen-Stewart-Snow-White-and-the-Hunstman-DerpGive the role to a woman. Before you laugh, rumor has it that some plans for the remake would have seen the Kurgan gender-bent. With all due respect to all the ladies out there, all handing Kristen Stewart or Dakota Fanning a greatsword (remember, Summit Entertainment is the studio making this) is going to do is ensure that Jaden Smith loses the dubious honor of the worst miscasting in a remake. Well, that and that the remake flops.
vinnie-jones-juggernaut-kurgan-highlanderOf course, it would be just as big as a mistake to cast someone who can’t have the right balance of intimidation and acting ability. Mickey Rourke or John Malkovitch would be perfect, if only either were a foot and a half taller. Vinnie Jones has the look, but its hard to take the man seriously after his role as the Juggernaut, plus, his British accent would be a tad out of place on the Kurgan, who hails from the Russian Steppe.

Best Case Scenario
Dolph_Lundgren_Kurgan_Highlander_RemakeWith that in mind, I’d pick Dolph Lundgren. Even now in his fifties, Ludgren is one of the biggest actors in Hollywood in terms of height and muscle mass, and as a few robbers can attest, is intimidating as hell. As anyone who has seen Rocky IV knows, he can pull off a Russian accent, and back in his day, he wielded a mean greatsword. For those who claim he can’t handle the acting chops or isn’t smart enough, the man is a polyglot, has an IQ of 160, holds a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering, and is very articulate in his interviews. He has the ability, he’s just never gotten the opportunity to get a role that allows him to break out of the ‘dumb Swede’ typecasting, and has recently expressed a desire to put that image to rest once and for all, and the Kurgan would allow him to do just that, while not stepping to far outside his former roles.

Plus, tell me you wouldn’t want to see a brutal sword fight between He-Man, Zorro and Obi-Wan Kenobi?


Given the original film was hailed for both the creativity and execution of some of its more creative concepts, and the rich mythos built up since then in the franchise, the script and screenplay will be of particular concern. Conflict will be the focus of the film, but the script will need to focus just as much on the isolation and loss that living forever has on an individual. The key will be to find a balance.

Worst Case Scenario

Pretty much the screenwriter they have right now, Melissa Rosenberg. For those of you who don’t know, she’s the one that adapted the Twilight books into screenplays. While granted, Hemmingway, Twain and Shakespeare together couldn’t turn the source material into screenplays worth making films out of, it’s not really a stretch to figure after penning five screenplays filled with angst-ridden immortals lusting after a mortal lover, there’s more than a good chance we’ll have a film far more focused on Conner lusting after Brenda than the Gathering, especially considering how much money the Twilight films have made Summit. Should this come to pass, it may well be the twilight of the Highlander franchise, no pun intended.

Best Case Scenario

Give it back to the two guys that wrote the original screenplay for the remake, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway. While you may not know them, you know doubt have seen their work before: these two wrote the screenplay for Iron Man, and were responsible for many of the more creative parts of the movie, most notably creating Agent Phil Coulson. Plus, by all accounts, the original script was a thing of beauty. Get these two back on the job, and with a little luck, they can do for Highlander what they did for Marvel’s comic book movies.


The director is quite often what can make or break a film, and given the Hollywood habit of giving reboots off to rookie directors, more often it’s the later for remakes. Any potential Highlander director will need to be capable of doing top notch action scenes, handle some of the trickier narrative hurdles that would come with a Highlander film, and most importantly, be capable of making a decent film.

Worst Case Scenario

We’re looking at a possible one in the making with the director in talks right now, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. While I may not have been crazy about Justin Lin, who was the prior rumored director, he’s leaps and bounds better than this fool, who couldn’t even handle making 28 Weeks Later, and hasn’t made a movie in almost six years. Plus, the man is a PR nightmare, as one of the biggest reasons they dropped the Crow remake idea, aside from public outrage, was Fresnadillo couldn’t go three days without pissing off fans of the original, and is off to a splendid start on doing the same for Highlander.

Best Case Scenario

My pick would easily be Martin Campbell, though Louis Leterrier would be a close second. He’s been behind some of the most successful reboots in modern cinema, that of the Zorro franchise, and twice with James Bond, which included what I think is the best Bond film ever made, Casino Royale. On top of his talent for reboots, he is a great action movie director, and with the Zorro movies, has experience with making great swordfights. If anyone could bring out the very best in a possible Highlander reboot, he’s the man to do it.

Queen_Highlander_SoundtrackFreddie Mercury may not have gotten an acting credit for it, but the original soundtrack by Queen for the original film is a huge part of what made the original a classic. It’s almost impossible to picture the movie without “Princes of the Universeplaying over the opening credits, getting you pumped for the film, or the gut-wrenching “Who Wants to Live Forever“, driving home the solitude that comes with immortality. Problem for any remake is that Freddie Mercury is dead, and for the most part, so is rock and roll, and guitar riffs are just as much a part of Highlander as sword-swinging immortal Scotsmen.

Worst Case Scenario
crappy+hipster+bandGiven that we’re dealing with Summit Entertainment, we could expect an indie soundtrack akin to the ones found in Twilight or Juno. You could have the best cast, a talented director and a top notch script, but if you let a bunch of hipsters on Pichfork design the soundtrack, all you’re doing is bringing down the film, because Arcade Fire can never replace Queen.

Best Case Scenario
Manowar-Highlander-remake-soundtrackWhy bother to replace Queen at all? Just plug in a remastered version of the old Queen soundtrack and you’re good to go. The one instance I woundn’t do that is if they do take the film in a darker direction, in which case, I’d swap out Queen for some melodic metal, likely a mix between Manowar, Dragonforce and HammerFall. Essentially, if you don’t use Queen, look for a band whose album art could double as a movie poster for the film.

Highlander_Macleod_Kurgan_RamirezSo there we have it folks, what I think would be the best and worst possibilities for the Highlander reboot. With a little luck, maybe some Hollywood executive will stumble on this and we will get the most kickass version of Highlander we’re capable of, but far more likely we’ll get something that falls somewhere in the middle. For those like me keeping tabs on the reboot, let’s just hope for the best, prepare for the worst and remember:
there can be only oneDon’t loose your head.

12 thoughts on “The Right and Wrong way to remake Highlander”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hmm. If they HAVE to stick a woman in there it’d better be someone like Grace Jones.

    1. Korsgaard says:

      Pardon my ignorance… who is Grace Jones?

    2. ChrisH says:

      The black chick from Conan the Destroyer.

    3. Korsgaard says:

      Her? I imagine she’s too old at this point.

  2. The Illusive One says:

    Here’s the thing dude. What it seems like you’re looking for is the same movie with better special effects and different actors and that is not the way a remake/reboot should be.
    If they’re going to bother remaking/rebooting it they should actually do something original with it like what John Carpender did with The Thing, or Peter Jackson did with King Kong, or Snyder did with Dawn of the Dead, or the Coen Brothers did with True Grit. It should pay tribute to the original but it ultimately needs to be it’s own thing.
    Sorry dude, but if we get it the way you want it we’ll probably get a Psycho or Nightmare on Elm Street type remake.

    1. Korsgaard says:

      Problem with your point is that “original takes” on concepts is how we get crap like the Karate Kid remake or half the horror movie remakes of the last decade.

      I want a potential reboot to act as an upgrade. You want them to build a whole new machine, and a few exceptions aside, that almost always spells disaster in Hollywood.

      That said, thoughts on my casting choices?

    2. The Illusive One says:

      No,that’s also how we got all the great remakes I mentioned and it’s “upgrading” all of those crappy remakes you mentioned. And no I don’t have anything to say because you idea would result in in a remake that doesn’t do anything new and would be pointless.

    3. Korsgaard says:

      Did you ignore my examples of people who changed films for the worse in remakes? Its kind of what going off the rails usually results in. Examples:

      -Karate Kid remake takes place in China, has no Karate, too many kids, a Justin Biever song, and is an hour too long. Also, it sucked.
      -Conan remake had an orignal plot and original charachters. It sucked, and it bombed.
      -Stepford Wives changed the ending and made itself a comedy. It flopped.
      -Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes remake made no sense and marked the decline of his career.
      -The Wicker Man ruined one of the best horror films of all time and marked the death of Nick Cage as a serious actor.
      -The Women took a classic comedy and turned it into a cliche chick flick. It sucked.
      -The Day the Earth Stood Still. The original is a timeless classic touching on the themes of nuclear war, and has an alien messenger present an ultimatum of peace to all mankind. The remake features Keanu Reeves as an alien environmentalist sent to destroy mankind to preserve Earth’s environment, a goal that not only was poorly executed and contradictory, but would have left the aliens of the remake as the sort of creatures the ones from the original would have destroyed. If it has a sole redeeming virtue, its that it finally killed the career of Keanu Reeves.

      Point is, remakes that go off the rails and are good are the exception, not the rule. Not to mention with the forces behind the remake, you go off the rails, we’re getting Twilight with swords.

      Plus, of the four you listed for good original remakes, King Kong and the Dawn of the Dead remake didn’t stray too far from the original. They just had great actors, a director who loved the original, and focused on fixing the flaws of the original while updating it for modern audiences – the same thing I did here with Highlander.

  3. Stienberg says:

    Can’t say much about the music aspect (though I personally cringe at keeping much of the original sound track sims of aging well vs new material which might be good), though I do have to agree with some things.

    Sending a female to play the Kurgen would be disastrous in my opinion, just takes away from the menance. But seeing some of your other uh oh picks strikes me as unlikely. For one thing I just can’t see Robert Patterson volunteering to lift a broad sword (Daniel Radclifffe maybe) and having anyone other Ewan McGregor wouldn’t work I think, he just has the accent good. Though maybe they could throw in Gerard Butler?

    1. Korsgaard says:

      What can I say? I’m a Queen fan. Think Manowar could be an upgrade?

      Mucht he reason I redicule the idea of a female Kurgan. I’m all for gender equality in movies but theres a point where common sense must come in to play.

      As for Pattinson, after the last Twilight film comes out and his 15th minute starts getting close, I think he’ll be looking for any role he can take.

      As for Radcliffe, though a good actor, he’s not the right kind of actor for the role. Plus, can you see him in a Kilt and doing anything but laughing?

      Glad you agree that McGregor would be a perfect pick. As much as I’m a Gerard Butler fan, I can’t see him as MacLeod, he just doesn’t have the right look for it.

  4. Mariani says:

    I love Highlander. To me, it was the best films to combine both modern and fantasy. Not to mention the obscurity for their reason to fight, it was never clear to why to kill each despite their immortality.

    So I was really hoping that the sequel would explain the reasoning behind the Quickening. It sort of did. But not in the way that fans were expecting. The whole thing turns out to be an absolute rip-off to Blade Runner. Not even Doctor Cox himself was able to save the film. And the whole premise that they come from another world was completely out of left field.

    I won’t even discuss the bad case of sequelitis that plagues this franchise. For that I might have to write my own blog about the countless retcons, horrid CGI, and the rage-inducing looney that was “The Guardian” that appeared in the Sci-fi channel’s original film.

    But good choice for actors, honestly I would have chosen Javier Bardem as the Kurgan. After seeing him in “No Country for Old Men”. He has that sort of evil that no other actor can appropriately portray on screen.

    As for the music, I think its time for Queen to retire. After hear “Princes of the Universe” redone so many times, it lost a lot of luster. So I’m going with Manowar as the official soundtrack. For some reason, Scandinavian Metal does seem to go well with this sort of setting.

    1. Korsgaard says:

      I completely agree that it is one of the best modern fantasies ever created.

      Also, that the sequel is one of the worst sequels ever made, and deserves its infamous reputation. As do all of the following sequels.

      I’m glad you liked my picks for the cast, but I’d never even thought of Javier Bardem for the Kurgan. He’d be a brilliant pick, though I wonder if he is tall enough – aside from that he’s be brilliant.

      I love Queen, but I do think Manowar would be a perfect fit if they must be replaced.

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