To Kill a Mockingbird: time for a remake?

May 26, 2010

The 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird is upon us, according to an article in The New York Times. This book has to be on anyone’s top ten list of Southern novels, and the reclusiveness of its author, Harper Lee, and her Truman Capote connection make it all the more intriguing.

Then there’s the movie. Released in 1962, it is remembered for great performances by Gregory Peck, who defined the Atticus character forever, and a young Robert Duvall, who played Boo Radley. The late playwright Horton Foote wrote the screenplay, the film won three Oscars, and was ranked number 25 on the American Film Institute’s list of top 100 movies.

I watched To Kill a Mockingbird a while ago for the first time in decades and, while again impressed by Gregory Peck and Robert Duvall, I found myself cringing at the awful performances by the child actors. Compared to, say, the superb youthful role-playing in the Harry Potter movies, the parts of Scout, Jem, and Dill come up far short.

It’s time for a remake. I would cast Tom Hanks as Atticus and, for old time’s sake, Robert Duvall as the judge. The other roles should be parceled out among the talented young actors of our time. Maybe Harper Lee could be enticed into a cameo.

A new cinematic To Kill a Mockingbird would make this wonderful story more approachable to modern viewers, would reinterpret a classic Southern novel, and get more people thinking about the timeless themes in the book.