Remake & Reboot: The Dick Tracy Movie

Despite the legendary status of Dick Tracy, the mainstream public doesn’t remember him from his classic comic strips but more as an antiquated icon like Little Orphan Annie or for the 1990 Warren Beatty film. Cartoonist Chester Gould’s long-running Dick Tracy strip changed comics as we know it, but after years of evolution became stuck in amber at some point as a throwback concept to a bygone age. With Warren Beatty and Tribute Media still fighting over the rights to revisit Dick Tracy on the silver screen, here’s a risky (but potentially rewarding) game plan I’d love to see them get behind.

The Concept:

Call me a traitor, but I think Dick Tracy shouldn‘t be a period piece. Creator Chester Gould was a man of his time, but he was also tech-saavy — his two-way wristwatch showed he was thinking of the future, not dreaming of the past. What if a Dick Tracy remake pushed Gould‘s characters into a modern-day crime drama with tinges of its four-color past. Think about it — did Sam Raimi‘s Spider-Man try to make its origin a 1960s period piece in keeping with Lee & Ditko‘s original stories?

In addition to fighting what was set out in Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy, any crime comic set for a film adaptation is also weighed heavily by the success of Sin City. For a new Dick Tracy to work, it needs to be neither and both at the same time, crafting something unique.

For a modern remake, imagine a new detective to the force with big shoes to fill. War veteran Dick Tracy is the son of a decorated cop, but comes onto the force at a time where the cops are outpaced by modern technology and tactics of the criminals they face. Tracy is a workaholic cop with something to prove, who tries to balance a budding relationship with Tess Trueheart with the demands and duties of law enforcement. The underworld is ruled by a businessman the local papers call Flat-top for a bad haircut he once had, but comedy is kept on the fringes as Tracy goes to extraordinary means to make up for lost ground and get on even footing with the criminal element.  

The Director:

How do you surmount the mark that Warren Beatty’s 1990 movie made on movie-goers without disfranchising fans who want you to adhere to the original comic strips of yore? It’s a similar challenge Tim Burton faced in Batman, especially if you equate Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy with the Adam West Batman television series. What this Dick Tracy remake needs is Antoine Fuqua.

Fuqua made his name with 2001‘s Training Day but has yet to deliver as critical a hit since. But that being said, his films since have all been strong efforts just slightly unfocused. For this I‘d partner Fuqua with someone like Lawrence Kasdan to come up with a solid script and direction and let him run with it.

The Cast:


Dick Tracy / Adam Scott: Although best known for his comedic work on TV’s Party Down and Parks & Recreation, any serious fan needs to take a look at his dramatic work such as in the recent film The Vicious Kind. Scott shows an amazing versatility and could easily get in the mindset to deliver a deep and three-dimensional performance as Dick Tracy.


Flattop Jones / Gabriel Byrne: Byrne is so good at playing the big bad, and he could bring a serious tone to the comedic Flattop Jones role. Remember, this is a crime movie not a comic — imagine Byrne’s weight and voice tearing Chicago and Tracy up and down.


Tess Trueheart / Gemma Arterton: Trueheart’s role in the 90s Dick Tracy was largely overshadowed by Madonna’s role, but Gemma Arterton could breathe a full life into this role in more ways than one.


Chief Brandon / Stacy Keach: Who better to transmit the real life on the force than veteran actor Stacy Keach? After seeing him recently on Lights Out I’m dying to see him take on this kind of mentoring role again.


Pat Patton / Callan McAuliffe: There wasn’t many good parts to the recent film I Am Number Four, but one of them was comic relief actor Callan McAuliffe. McAuliffe would fill in nicely as Tracy’s bumbling partner.


Diet Smith / Hal Holbrook: The perennial actor is best known for his years playing Mark Twain, but Holbrook chooses his roles carefully. Having Holbrook on this case could add some acting firepower and balance out a great ensemble cast.


  1. I would keep it set in the 1930s/40s.  Those suits and cars really set the tone for the first movie and if we set in modern times it would look like a Fast and Furious ripoff.

  2. I’m sorry but adam scotts not putting ass in the seats

  3. i really liked the 90s Dick Tracy as is. So campy and weird…total classic for me.

    Antoine Fuqua is a good director, but i think he would make this character and universe waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too dark and serious.

  4. The  90’s Dick Tracy was so perfect I don’t want another reboot

  5. Actually, now that you’ve said it – a 1960s period set Spider-Man would have been actually Amazing. I really hope that happens some day…

  6. An FF movie set in the 1960s would be perfect.

    Spider-man should have been set in the 1970s.

  7. I’m so torn over this I love the 90’s dick tracy, but I want to share this love with a new audenience.  This film would need to stay with its campy and weird roots.

  8. What about a future noir Dick Tracy, like Blade Runner?

  9. Really??  You guys recommend Jon Hamm for every comic role that comes down the pipe and now you recommend Scott??  I like Arterton, but for Dick Tracy, you have to go with someone who looks like something out of a 40s movie…

  10. @marshak75  We actually don’t recommend Hamm for everything. That’s the rest of the internet.

  11. @nastysnow  Wouldn’t the name Dick Tracy put the proverbial asses in seats?

  12. @DaveCarr  I agree. That movie was all kinds of fun. It doesn’t need a reboot or remake.

  13. I dunno about having to reboot this movie, especially updating it to a more modern time. I think there’s still an audience who loves a good old fashioned gangster film and a new Dick Tracy could give it to them.

    I’m gonna go out on a limb and throw Paddy Considine into the pool. He’s one of my favorite actors that doesn’t get the credit he deserves over here in the states. He’s versatile, can be serious and funny. He’s got a grizzled, world-weary look that may play well to a slightly darker take on the character, too.

    I like Gabriel Byrne, too, but I like Ian McShane better. And where’s Pruneface? 

  14. I love Adam Scott on Party Down (hilarious, down to earth dry humor) and the few episodes of Parks and Rec i’ve seen. Vicious Kind is an excellent performance and was just recommending that movie to a couple friends but I too wonder if him as Dick Tracy would sell tickets. Could be a sleeper cult hit though.

  15. Adam Scott from Torque?! The director of Training Day?!! Gabriel Bryne from End of Days?!!

    This movie would be TERRIBLE

  16. The Werren Beatty one is soooooo good. This does not need to be remade.