The Coen brothers wrote it. An Oscar-winner stars in it. So how is it that Gambit could be such a cataclysmic train-wreck? LWLies investigates.
The following transcript is a telephone conversation between Oscar-winning British actor Colin Firth and his (then) agent, Ian Hastings.
Colin Firth: Yeeeello?
Ian Hastings: Woi oi!
Firth: Ian, how are you old stick?
Hastings: Ticking over, ticking over. What's the haps your end?
Firth: Well, you know… Things have calmed down a bit now. People have finally stopped asking about the blasted Oscar. Anyone who does, I just tell them I now use it to tenderise steak. I don't really.
Hastings: Listen, Col-Fire, this is going to have to be a quickie. I've got the kids in the back of the Jag and I'm trying to navigate the Dartford Tunnel on two hours sleep and half a bottle of expired Advocaat. You know you said you were looking for something that was a little off-the-reservation, something where you could prove that there was more to your repertoire than cuddly blue blood yahoos and vacillating Don Juans who come good in the end? A range-expander.
Firth: I'm listening…
Hastings: Well, you're not going to believe this, but I've got three words for you: The. Coen. Brothers.
Firth: [casually hyperventilating] You've got me into […] a blimin' Coen brothers film? Ian, how quickly can you get here and do the seats in that Jag recline?
Hastings: Hold on, hold on. There are a couple of [mumbles] minor caveats.
Firth: Caveats? What caveats? … What actually is a caveat?
Hastings: Well, the Coens have written this film called Gambit.
Firth: Gambit? What is that? Isn't that what they put into kettles to stop them from exploding?
Hastings: No, no. It's a caper. Did you ever see the Pink Panther films with Peter Sellers?
Firth: Yes, yes! I loved those. Father used to screen them to us in the summer house. "You can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"
Hastings: The very same. Well, they've written a film which a bit like an homage to those. It's actually a remake of a Ronald Neame film from '66 with Michael Caine. You'll be playing Michael Caine! But here's the catch.
Hastings: The Coens aren't actually directing it.
Firth: Why not?
Hastings: I think this is just a writing gig for them. The official line is that Joel is having a new patio installed and he's quite keen to oversee that.
Firth: Understandable. Our contractor gave us the very devil of a time when we...[inaudible]
Hastings: It's all happening at the same time the shoot's scheduled and Ethan refuses to fly solo. Childhood trauma. You know how it is.
Firth: Ahh... So who is directing it then?
Hastings: Well, that doesn't really matter. When you've got a script by the Coen brothers, you can basically get your second lighting assistant to direct and you're guaranteed gold.
Firth: So there's no director attached yet?
Hastings: Well... In a sense. We've got this guy called Michael Hoffman.
Firth: Is he good?
Hastings: He's dynamite. He's double dynamite. He's a fist full of dynamite. He's dyn-
Firth: What's he done?
Hastings: One Fine Day.
Hastings: Okay, you're going to play a svelte art swindler who's trying to do one over on his revolting boss. Just a few more details and we'll get this sucker locked down.
Hastings: Are you okay with dropping your trousers while trying to climb down the side of the Savoy and holding a Ming vase?
Firth: Hells yes.
Hastings: Good, good. Are you okay with pratfalls? Falling on the floor, farting, funny faces, getting hit in the face, stuff like that?
Firth: I don't see why not? Could be a giggle.
Hastings: Okay, last one, are you happy to be in a film with...fond ethnic stereotypes?
Firth: Sure. As long as it's tastefully done.
Hastings: Do you really need to ask? Col, this is my neck on the line here. I would never put you in anything which wasn't 100 per cent down the line.
Firth: Alright. Who else is in it?
Hastings: So far Rickman and Diaz are a lock.
Firth: How delightful. What do they play?
Hastings: Well Diaz is a rowdy American good-time gal… champion rodeo rider it says 'ere. She's roped in to your ruse. Rickman is the shitbag boss. Textbook stuff really.
Firth: This sounds like it could be a winner. A classy comedy caper set in the art world. What could go wrong?
[Sudden sound of loud clanging and screaming as Hastings swerves off the road and into the awnings of a fancy dress shop. He is survived by his two daughters and his loving wife, Pat.]
Firth: Hello? Hello?... Ian, old darling, I just have a few queries about my per diem…
Written by the Coen brothers. That, sir, is an instant deal.
By the end of the chronically awful animated title sequence, you'll know that there's no hope for this one.
Make it stop! Make it stop! Oh please just make it stop!