When working on a big budget remake, does the writer have complete control over how the characters behave and talk? It must be difficult to shape the main characters when people all around you have their own personal ideas about them.
Once the script has left the writer’s hands, he never has complete control over anything. That’s the first and possibly the most frustrating truth about screenwriting.
In order to be filmed, your perfect vision has to be mucked up by directors, actors, editors and cinematographers, each of whom will change it to greater and lesser degrees. The hope is that each step of the way, they’ll make it better. Surprisingly, sometimes they do.
Your question is about remakes, where there’s a general familiarity with the characters and the concept, and your instincts are right. Since everyone involved on the project knows the underlying material, they all have strong opinions about how to proceed.
The writer’s job, in this case, is to try to capture as much as possible of what’s beloved about the original, and yet still make a movie that can stand on its own.
In the case of CHARLIE’S ANGELS, the producers and I had long talks about the tone and characters, independent of the plot. Rather than mocking the original series, we wanted the movie to be a giant hug around it. We wanted the angels to be super-competent on the job, and approachably dorky in their off-time. Despite all the action, this would be fundamentally a comedy, and cool people just aren’t funny.
All of this seems pretty obvious watching the final movie, but getting everyone to agree to this approach was easily half of my job. It would have been easier to make a straight-out spoof (like SCARY MOVIE), or a full-on action movie (like James Bond), but I don’t think either would have been as successful.