Behind The Scenes
Why remake PSYCHO
Why remake PSYCHO?
For almost four decades the very concept of motion picture suspense
has been synonymous with the title Psycho. When Alfred
Hitchcock originally made Psycho in 1960, it was the most
frankly sexual and violent motion picture ever made by Hollywood,
frighteningly so. Audiences were stunned by the stark portrait
of a maniacal killer, and thousands thought twice about their
personal hygiene choices after the relentless experience. Since
then, the techniques Hitchcock used to compel viewers to the edges
of their seats have been often imitated yet nothing could ever
usurp the first-time viewing of Psycho. In fact, the movie
was recently named the second most scariest movie ever made in
a TV Guide poll and was chosen by the American Film Institute
for its list of the 100 most important American movies.
Psycho penetrated deeply, indelibly, under the skin of
all who entered the lurid yet undeniably alluring world of the
Bates Motel, overseen by its unusual owners Norman Bates and his
elderly, domineering mother. This effect was entirely due to the
taut, suspenseful screenplay by Joseph Stefano and the masterful
filmmaking of Hitchcock, whose voyeuristic camera, staccato cuts
and willingness to plunge fully into the darkest recesses of human
psychology made the film unlike any cinematic experience that
had come before. By all accounts, Psycho was then and remains
today a masterpiece. So why would anyone mess with it?
Director Gus Van Sant has stood up to one of the biggest taboos
in contemporary filmmaking by recreating the motion picture Psycho.
Although it has never been done before, Van Sant was intrigued
by the notion of taking an intact, undeniable classic and seeing
what would happen if it were made again-with a nearly identical
shooting script-but with contemporary filmmaking techniques.
Part tribute to Hitchcock, part new introduction for younger audiences,
part bold experiment, the recreated Psycho is not even
remotely intended to supplant the 1960 masterwork. Rather it is
a fresh look-a sort of inquiry into what happens when someone
from a new generation wields the same razor-sharp blade.
Gus Van Sant has had a Psycho fixation for a long time.
It all began when he started thinking about the notion of Hollywood
remakes. Van Sant noticed that, almost without exception, only
those films that had fallen out of popularity, relegated to lonely
midnight movies and late-night cable, were ever remade. Big, enduring
classics were rarely tackled, except in cases where they were
altered beyond recognition.
Van Sant, known for his bold choices in filmmaking, wanted to
take on the challenge of truly recreating an incredible, landmark
movie, in the same way that different directors repeatedly tackle
the material of Shakespeare's Hamlet because it is so rich
and resonant. He chose the ultimate American classic: Psycho,
a film that had been far ahead of its time in 1960 and still surprises
The initial reaction from almost all quarters was astonishment:
"Why on earth would you want to do that?" Some thought
it outrageous, others thought it sacrilege.
But Van Sant had an answer.
"I felt that, sure, there were film students, cinephiles
and people in the business who were familiar with Psycho but that
there was also a whole generation of movie-goers who probably
hadn't seen it," he says. "I thought this was a way
of popularizing a classic, a way I'd never seen before. It was
like staging a contemporary production of a classic play while
remaining true to the origina
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