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Casting suggestions for 'What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?' remake

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford battled in the 1962 version. How about Meryl Streep and Glenn Close? Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston? The possibilities are endless.

August 18, 2012|By Jim Brooks, Los Angeles Times
  • Joan Crawford, left, and Bette Davis in "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" in 1962.
Joan Crawford, left, and Bette Davis in "What Ever Happened to Baby… (Warner Bros., Warner Bros. )

"What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" Looks like we're about to find out again. And actresses of a certain age everywhere must be quivering in their orthopedics at news of a remake. After all, the 1962 original, a delicious hot mess of black comedy/chiller thriller, earned late-career cred for two of golden Hollywood's declining and long feuding queen bees.

Bette Davis camped it up as "Baby Jane" Hudson, a former child star-turned-abusive, frowzy caretaker. Joan Crawford was invalid sister Blanche, a onetime star in her own right, crippled years earlier in a mysterious car wreck. The only thing more in danger than Blanche and her pet bird (don't ask) in their mausoleum of a Hollywood mansion was the quickly consumed scenery.

All creepy blond ringlets and gargoyle makeup, Davis walked away with a 10th (and final) lead actress nomination for her vanity-free performance. But it was Crawford, perhaps, who got the last laugh, accepting the award on Oscar night — even if it was on behalf of absentee winner Anne Bancroft for "The Miracle Worker." Besides their own success from the project, "Baby Jane" ushered in an era of older-actress horror flicks, including Davis' "Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte," also helmed by "Baby's" Robert Aldrich.

Now, man's man director Walter Hill ("48 Hrs.," "The Warriors," the upcoming "Bullet to the Head") has announced plans to remake the estrogen-fueled Grand Guignol. Should he need casting help, here are some intriguing pairings:

Meryl Streep (Blanche) and Glenn Close (Baby Jane)

A dream team for sure. After all, Close can bring the crazy (some "Fatal Attraction," please), and Streep is long-suffering better than anyone else ("Sophie's Choice," "The Deer Hunter," "The French Lieutenant's Woman"). But firmly entrenched in their 60s, are they too old? Remarkably enough, Davis and Crawford were only in their mid-50s when asked to play the trippy Hudson sisters.

Faye Dunaway (Blanche) and Shirley MacLaine (Baby Jane)

If you want to go really old school, Dunaway already has proved she can channel Crawford ("Mommie Dearest"), and old hoofer MacLaine … well, she must have been a child star in one of those past lives. No doubt her looniness could bring new meaning to the line "Nobody puts Baby in the corner."

Sigourney Weaver (Blanche) and Bette Midler (Baby Jane)

Weaver has battled aliens with a believably straight face, so a demon sister should be no problem. And mischievous Midler's take on demented? Priceless. Besides, she still has to fulfill the dramatic promise of "The Rose."

Angelina Jolie (Blanche) and Jennifer Aniston (Baby Jane)

OK, a stretch. But just as Davis and Crawford's off-screen loathing added resonance to their on-screen chemistry, who wouldn't want to see the intense Jolie and an off-the-rails Aniston — think of her sexist predator in "Horrible Bosses"— mix it up on the same soundstage? This could be their chance at a de-glam moment, to show they can ACT in capital letters. (See: Elizabeth Taylor, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?") Throw in Brad Pitt as Baby's hapless piano accompanist.

Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen (either/or Blanche/Baby Jane)

Finally, for something truly scary, we offer this bit of stunt casting. Young, loopy, glam sisters playing old, weird stranger sisters. Goth, no less. And all that "Full House" toddler footage could be fodder for flashbacks. To keep it a family affair, sister Elizabeth Olsen of "Martha Marcy May Marlene" fame could play the nosy next-door neighbor. We are so there.

jim.brooks@latimes.com

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