Let's go ahead and cast the What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? remake

Fantastic news coming out of Comic Con: They are remaking What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?! It's such fun news that there is no way to properly punctuate the end of the sentence! Walter Hill, who just finished directing Sylvester Stallone in the cop drama Bullet to the Head, will direct and write the screenplay, because a movie about an abusive, deranged former child star torturing her crippled sister while both wither away in obscurity is clearly the next logical step in his career. Now that the news is out of the way, let's cast this thing! (And maybe look at more pictures of Bette Davis looking out of her blessèd mind!)

First, let's take a look back at the 1962 original that starred Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, two women who hated each other with the heat of one thousand suns, perhaps more. Crawford, who played the victimized sister Blanche Hudson, actually put rocks in her costume when Davis -- the titular "Baby" Jane Hudson -- was called upon to drag her body around their dilapidated house. That yanked Ms. Davis' back in all kinds of bad ways, but don't worry -- she kicked Crawford in the face, causing a wound that needed stitches. This, plus the fighting that didn't involved physical violence, which director Robert Aldrich was helpless to stop.

The feuding didn't even stop with the end of production. When the Oscar nominees were announced for that year, Davis was nominated for Best Actress, Crawford was not. But Crawford took it upon herself to give all the other nominees who weren't Bette Davis, see if they were unable to attend the ceremony, and accept the award on their behalf. Anne Bancroft ended up winning, was, in fact, not in attendance, so Crawford gleefully barged past Davis to accept Bancroft's Oscar for The Miracle Worker.

Also worth mentioning: The daughters of both actresses wrote scathing books about their mothers. I can't imagine why, they seemed like such delightful women.

Blanche ate all the sunblock because it wasn't a dead animal and she was starving.

Oh, right -- this movie actually existed outside of Davis and Crawford, despite their best efforts! Billed as a psychological thriller -- because it's what the kids call "creepy as all fuck" -- What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is the story of two fading sisters, one of whom was famous as a child (Jane), the other famous as an adult (Blanche). Jane is unable to recreate her fame as an adult, so she becomes a drunk instead. After a career-ending car accident that involved both sisters, Blanche ends up paralyzed and Jane gets stuck caring for her, which she only resents a little bit (because the rest of the time she is too drunk to actually care). By the time we meet the Hudson sisters, Jane has suddenly realized she has become an incredibly scary person and Blanche is being served dead animals for lunch (by Jane). After a few days of frightening abuse and the murder of innocents who might reveal said abuse, the police are tipped off that something might be going on in the Hudson house and Jane flees, bringing her sister with her to the beach. You know, because it's nice there. At the beach.

It will be interesting to see how they deal with technology in this remake (à la the Rear Window remake with Christopher Reeve), unless they make it a period piece and it's still set in the early '60s. Then again, it's not unheard of for, ahem, an older generation to be less apt to use all the technology we have today anyway, so all the same rules from the movie would probably apply.

So, who should act this thing out now that we're in 2012? Let's breeze past the obvious contenders like Meryl Streep and Susan Sarandon as Blanche and Jane, respectively, and take a look at some less obvious possibilities.

Cloris Leachman (Blanche) and Betty White (Jane)

Come on, look at these batty dames! Might be a bit older than in the story, but I would kill to see these two go at it for two hours. It would, of course, end up as more of a parody of Baby Jane, but I can't say I'd be against that.

Helen Mirren (Blanche) and Joanna Lumley (Jane)

Why not go British, especially when it's these two? In fact, there might even be a real-life rivalry we can pull out of our asses if we try hard enough: Mirren has expressed an interest in playing the Doctor on Doctor Who -- Lumley has sort of done that.

Jane Fonda (Blanche) and Faye Dunaway (Jane)

Seriously, what better way for Dunaway to spin off her own performance as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest than by playing the equally psychotic role played by her rival? And Fonda would be awesome, even though I think she'd probably kick Dunaway's ass in real life.

Kim Basinger (Blanche) and Annette Bening (Jane)

While Basinger isn't the most even-keeled actress in Hollywood, neither was Joan Crawford. And Annette Bening is a lot of fun when she's crazy. (See: American Beauty. "I will sell this house today!")

Angela Bassett (Blanche) and Viola Davis (Jane)

First, I think these two would be a hoot in Baby Jane. Second, allow me to point something out: Joan Crawford was 56 or 57 when she made that movie and Bette Davis was about 54. Viola Davis is 46 and Angela Bassett is 53. Yeah, just look at those withered old broads...

Sigourney Weaver (Blanche) and Linda Hamilton (Jane)

This sells itself.

Glenn Close (Blanche) and Sean Young (Jane)

I mean, come on. If we can make sure that Sean Young will not actually kill Glenn Close, this would be the best remake ever made.

Runners up: Melanie Griffith and Suzanne Somers (if it only gets as far as Lifetime), Tyler Perry and Martin Lawrence (in drag), Robin Williams and Eddie Izzard (the white version), Lindsay Lohan and Hillary Duff (wait, that was already a Robot Chicken sketch, and it was spoofing Highlander... I don't care, I'd pay to see it), Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nick Nolte (suggested by Eric Walkuski at Arrow in the Head).

And here are people I'd really like to watch sing "I've Written a Letter to Daddy": Arnold Schwarzenegger.


  1. Are you kidding? Lindsay Lohan and Tilda Swinton. Oh, I see you already covered Lohan, but still…

  2. Casting this with an actual former child star, preferably one who’s hit the skids hard, would not only add the frisson, but could also be cathartic for the actor or actress in question. And you could definitely cast younger, given the accelerated pace of burnout in today’s Hollywood.

    So I propose a youthful, gender-flipped take: Macaulay Culkin in the Jane role, playing the monster he could all too easily have become, with Rory Culkin in the wheelchair. I’d buy that for a dollar.

      1.  Madonna is better suited to the role of Jane, IMNSHO.  In fact, the day after the Super Bowl, I posted a meme of Jane in the attic going through her trunk and singing “Vogue…Vogue…Vogue….”

  3. I love that you’ve given so much attention to this movie recently. Back in high school I remember that my psych teach made us watch this; if any of us could sing the full “I’ve written a letter to Daddy…” song in front of the class, we got extra credit. Over ten years later, I still know the whole damn creepy song and I’m pretty sure that no extra credit is worth that price.

    1.  Don’t blame Hollywood — the film industry was bankrupt of ideas back when it was in New Jersey and New York. And then there’s the whole Shakespeare-stole-all-his-plots and…

      you’ve never really read Joseph Campbell, have you?

  4. Meryl Streep as Blanch, Shirley McClain as Baby Jane and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the Victor Buono character.

  5. If they make the Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton version, they should team up to fight an alien cyborg from the future in the third act.

  6. It has to be Weaver versus Close.
    Between them, they’ve slaughtered Xenomorphs, Bunnies, and Unobtainium-hungry Military Industrial Creeps.
    And voiced Andie MacDowell in a weird Tarzan film.
    Clash of the Titans.

  7. The press release indicated that the film would be set in the original time period. The film will just be updated to reflect more modern tastes- more blood, more sex, more violence (is that the same as blood.)

    1. …and the Baby Jane Doll is actually possessed by a demon that demands human sacrifices in return for fame.

  8. Are you kidding? The only one who can pull off a Bette Davis level insane is Betty White. The pic at top of the post practically looks like White already!

    And it’s not fair to typecast White as only a comedic actor. Prior to Golden Girls, her roles were much more serious and dramatic. For White, this would be like old hat, and a moment of career awesome akin to Rodney Dangerfield in Natural Born Killers.

    1. Jolie has broken so many homes it’s difficult to pick the best pairing.  Personally, I think Thurman and Jolie would be worth watching.

  9. Jessica Lange for Jane and Diane Keaton for Blanche.
    Seriously the stink lines are coming off this already.

  10. To deal with technology updates, in “What Ever Happened to Fanny Mae?” she types a note on a Macbook, closes the lid, and throws the laptop out the window, knocking out the neighbor meant to receive the note.

  11. fuck everything, seriously. i’ve mean spiritedly joked for years about a Jaws remake and this here takes the cake in terms of vile uselessness. Hollywood is the absolute worst.

    1. This is not actually more creatively bankrupt than Gus Van Sant’s shot-by-shot remake of Psycho.  It could potentially be the equal in creative bankruptcy, but it won’t be able to exceed it.

  12. Seriously. Helen Mirren in the Bette Davis role. She’s already played adult child once in Blue Remembered Hills.

    That would be a fucking supernova.

  13. Mimi Rogers and Nicole Kidman. Rewrite the Victor Buono role for Katie Holmes, somewhow. Gold, Jerry, gold!

  14. Looking at Walter Hill’s IMDB entry I predict a casting of Schwarzenegger and Stalone.

  15. This notion is a travesty; we’ve officially moved beyond the pale.

    “Buchya are, Blanche. Buchya ARE.”

  16. Kerri Kenney  (Jane) and Thomas Lennon (Blanche)

    Molly Ringwald (Jane) and Ally Sheedy (Blanche)

    Catherine O’Hara (Jane) and Andrea Martin (Blanche)

    Toni Collette (Jane) and Rachel Griffiths (Blanche) 

    Swoosie Kurtz (Jane) and Edie Falco (Blanche)

    Jane Lynch (Jane) and Laura Linney (Blanche)

    Lily Tomlin (Jane) and Jane Fonda (Blanche)

    Bette Midler (Jane) and Barbra Streisand (Blanche)
     Though I totally would kill to see Susan Sarandon as Jane (and she DOES have “Bette Davis Eyes”).  

  17. Gender swap version: Robert DeNiro (Blanche character), Al Pacino (Jane character)

    Imagine Pacino screaming “But you ARE in the chair! You ARE!”

    1. But imagine Walken saying, “You wouldn’t–treat me this–way—if I weren’t–in this chair…”

  18. I can’t believe no one has suggested Linda Blair (Jane) and Brooke Shields (Blanche).

  19. I’m a bit disappointed in you, BoingBoing, that this piece contains nary a mention of the book (which is equally as fantastic if you can get your hands on a copy) of the same name on which the film is based. The film worked in the first place because it is an excellent novel and also not least because of the fact that Bette Davis and Joan Crawford each fit the bill of their part at that time in their careers. I don’t think there is anyone out there today who could quite fulfill either role, but I will watch it? Of course!

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