James Toback‘s autobiographical script of The Gambler, a fine 1974 Paramount film directed by Karel Reisz, is one of the most perfectly written, jewel-cut character studies to ever reach the American screen. Its portrayal of the typical gambler’s risk-junkie mentality, partially borrowed from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Gambler” and partly from Toback’s own compulsive past, is close to flawless.
James Caan ‘s first-act speech to his students, lifted directly from Dostoevsky, about how “sometimes a man knows, just knows without rhyme or reason but with poetic certainty, that two and two make five” is one of my all-time favorite dialogue passages.
Today Deadline‘s Michael Fleming reported that William Monahan (The Departed) is rewriting Toback’s script for a potential Gambler remake with Leonardo DiCaprio atached to play Caan’s character and (who else?) Martin Scorsese directing. Monahan is too good of a writer to just update or do touch-ups, so I’m wondering does Paramount, which will produce, want to make The Gambler into a somewhat different thing? Maybe they don’t, but the hiring of Monahan suggests that they do.
Maybe they want a different ending. Toback’s, however true to Caan’s character, is a bit downish and masochistic.
Paul Sorvino (playing a loan shark named Lips): “Listen, I’m gonna tell you something I never told a customer before. Personally, I never made a bet in my life. You know why? Because I’ve observed firsthand what with seeing the different kinds of people that are addicted to gambling, what we would call degenerates. I’ve noticed there’s one thing that makes all of them the same. You know what that is?”
Caan (as inveterate gambler and college professor Axel Freed): “Yes. They’re all looking to lose.
Sorvino: “You mean you know that?”