A ton of confusion reigned when director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett were announced as the creative team that would bring Paramount’s Face/Off back to life. Ultimately, it would be clarified that what was actually happening was that Face/Off was getting an R-rated sequel, rather than the reboot a lot of people were expecting to happen. According to Barrett himself, a remake of John Woo’s film was never even in the cards under their watch.
Speaking on behalf of his recent film Seance, Simon Barrett told the Overdue Rentals podcast a story about how he and his frequent partner Adam Wingard landed the Face/Off gig in the first place. Part of tale cleared the air, with Barrett stating that while a reboot may have been part of the overall history of past attempts, the Wingard/Barrett plan was always to make a direct sequel. That makes sense when you read these details about the road that led to the gig itself:
My understanding is there have been many development processes trying to get another Face/Off going over the years. I think it was developed as a remake for a long time, and that’s where the confusion came from. … It’s not like Adam and I took a meeting, and they were like, ‘Hey, how would you guys like to do Face/Off?’ … We actively, for a year and a half, aggressively pitched Face/Off to the studio, to Neal Moritz. Aggressively, like once a month Adam and I would have these two and a half hour phone calls with these executives where we’d just try to explain to them what our pitch was. No one could understand what we were talking about, because once the faces switch, it becomes real hard to keep track of who’s who. Basically, we convinced the studio to allow us to write a treatment, and then they understood what we were pitching. And they were like, ‘OK, fine. You can write a script.’ But it’s not like this existed prior to us pitching it. It was our idea that we really wanted to see come to fruition. To me that’s a slightly different thing.
Most may have thought that the Face/Off project was a direct result of Adam Wingard’s success with Godzilla vs. Kong. As that news landed earlier this year, shortly before the press gears were whirring on the latest MonsterVerse entry, that assumption was probably based on the positive buzz the film was already receiving. However, it was actually the dogged determination of diehard fans like Wingard and Simon Barrett that made all the difference.
Even more interesting is the fact that Simon Barrett chalks up another film that he and Adam Wingard had made together as helping put Face/Off 2 into the works. In fact, fans of The Guest were almost assuredly the first people to come around to a Wingard/Barrett continuation of Face/Off, as the 2014 Dan Stevens thriller pays tribute to one specific plot point in the John Travolta/Nicolas Cage action classic. It's all thanks to one particularly handy weapon:
The butterfly knife has the same arc in both films. I’m shocked that no one has ever picked up on that. People always talk about Halloween and Terminator 2 and stuff. … But nobody ever mentions Face/Off, even though it’s like, literally, the exact same story, basically up to, and including, how the weapon is used against the person that gave it. It’s 100% the same thing from Face/Off. That actually is my real answer. We’re not doing a sequel to The Guest because we’re doing a sequel to Face/Off. And that will probably scratch that itch for a lot of people, quite honestly. Because we are committed to doing obviously an R-rated, like real, legit Face/Off sequel.
Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard are heading into Face/Off 2, or whatever the film will be called, with great confidence. Their familiarity with the source material, as well as the intent to continue doing what made John Woo’s original film so wonderful, are sure signs that no matter what happens next, the project looks to be in the best hands possible. Which, frankly, only makes the mystery surrounding how the pitch could possibly work in the first place all the more unbearable.
Simon Barrett’s Seance is currently available for rental on VOD, with a streaming premiere set to hit Shudder later on in the year. Meanwhile, you can see Adam Wingard’s Godzilla vs. Kong, which is currently still in its theatrical run. And if you need to brush up on The Guest, you can head over to Netflix and see Dan Stevens kick ass in a very un-Downton Abbey manner.