King Cohen – the superlative documentary about genre legend Larry Cohen (Q: The Winged Serpent, The Stuff) – played Fantastic Fest this weekend, and this writer was lucky enough to sit down with both its subject and the director (Steve Mitchell) of said non-fiction portrait. Over the course of a long, funny, informative conversation (which will be posted here in full later), the topic of the Maniac Cop remake came up.
A little background for those unaware – Cohen wrote the original Maniac Cop for smutty NYC grindhouse kingpin Bill Lustig, along with its two sequels (sidebar: Maniac Cop 2 played Friday on glorious 35mm to rave reviews from both the initiated and those who hadn’t had their faces melted by it before). For the past few years, Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, The Neon Demon) has been producing a remake, with John Hyams (Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning) and Ed Brubaker (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) scripting. To be frank, it’s a dream project for many members of BMD’s staff, as we obviously love Hyams, and the subtexts of Cohen’s script (wanton police brutality; codes of silence in that community) are due for an update in this post-Trump era of wanton, state sanctioned murder.
There’d been news of a greenlight back in March, with a Summer ’17 shoot planned. As of right now, there’re no further updates or even a cast on the film’s IMDB page. But any progress on the movie is a shocker to Cohen, who insists it’s not moving forward:
“As far as I know, that’s not happening anymore, and if it is, they might be trying to keep it a secret, as they’d owe me $250,000...”
Cohen went on to elaborate:
“Ed Brubaker wrote the script, and I’ve read the script, and it’s not very good. Ed Brubaker is a very good writer of comic books, I think. But if he’s written a good script for a movie, I haven’t read it.”
He also says that he did some revision work on Brubaker’s draft, indulging a little ego along the way:
“I wrote six new scenes for the picture, based on what I’d read. And, had I written the whole script, the movie would probably be happening, as the script would be good. I wrote three films for Bill Lustig, though they changed a lot of [Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence] and Bill got fired from it…and I would’ve written the fourth movie, had they asked. But they didn’t, and now it’s not getting made.”
Cohen also described the plot of Brubaker’s script, which he was not a fan of:
“…it’s a lot like that Bob Hoskins movie [Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa (’86)], where he’s driving prostitutes around and then waiting out in the car while they do their business in hotels with the Johns. It’s a direct lift from that, and then turns into a new Maniac Cop…”
Furthermore, Cohen says that, despite his misgivings with Brubaker’s draft, the majority of the blame sits at Nic Refn’s feet:
“…as far as I know, he was the one trying to get the money raised to make the picture, and he didn’t get it, so now it’s not happening. If it is, I would like to be paid, or I’m going to call my lawyer, and it’s getting shut down.”
While the most obvious reaction to Cohen’s comments are shock are disappointment (mixed with a little laughter, to be honest), they’re also slightly unusual, and not entirely easy to unpack. First off: Ed Brubaker is a very good writer, even if his sensibilities may not jibe with Cohen’s (one also has to wonder if the genre legend was speaking from a place of pure, egotistical dissatisfaction, as well). Furthermore, they fly in the face of previous reports, that state Refn was the one tasked with re-write duty.
So – which is it? Is the Maniac Cop remake happening? Is Brubaker’s screenplay a disaster? Was Refn really not able to get the funds, despite such stellar talent attached? This is all so confusing.