Edgar Wright may direct Sydney Sweeney in Barbarella remake

The director of Shaun of the Dead and rising star Sydney Sweeney might team up on this remake of the campy, sexy sci-fi cult classic.
35th Annual GLAAD Media Awards  - Arrivals
35th Annual GLAAD Media Awards - Arrivals / Steven Simione/GettyImages

A remake of Barbarella, the 1968 movie starring Jane Fonda as a far-out space vixen exploring the galaxy in and out of various sci-fi outfits, is starting to take shape. Syndey Sweeney, famous for her roles on Euphoria and The White Lotus, has been tapped to star as the title character. Now, Variety reports that Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) is in talks to direct.

The original Barbarella has become a cult classic, but it is very of its time. Unabashedly pulpy and featuring lots of nudity and sex, even if a lot of it is campy and tongue-in-cheek. The opening credits play over a five-minute sequence of Jane Fonda disrobing in zero gravity, for instance:

It's hard to see this movie getting a big budget Hollywood remake today, given that sex scenes in Hollywood movies have been drying up for decades and studies have shown that younger viewers aren't interested in seeing sex in movies. Maybe a Barbarella remake would take out the sex and go super-serious, a Barbarella movie for the age of Dune?

But it's very hard to picture Barbarella, based on Jean-Claude Forest comic book series, without the campiness and the sexiness. I mean, just look at the poster Sweeney posted after it was announced she got the role. How seriously is it possible to take this?

With all of this in the air, casting Sweeney seems like a canny choice, since her star persona is often associated with her sex appeal, sometimes in unwelcome ways. Earlier this year, she was the central character in a bizarre narrative pushed by conservative commentators who argued that the presence of Sweeney's cleavage at public events was somehow an affront to people who support progressive, left-leaning politics. Basically, her boobs triggered the conservatives.

Although the movie has been in development for awhile, a Barbarella remake almost seems like a response to all of that. Jane Fonda was famous for her sex appeal early in her career, but she's better remembered today as a political firebrand who advanced left-leaning causes, whether it was making 9 to 5 to highlight the plight of women in the workplace or enduring a major scandal for her opposition to the Vietnam War. If conservatives are claiming Sydney Sweeney's body as a weapon in their culture war against progressives, then invoking the spirit of Jane Fonda — an actor remembered for being both a bombshell and a leftist cultural warrior — could help flip the narrative.

That may all be a bit big-headed for a movie about a curvy astronaut. We'll see what develops as the project gets underway. As for Edgar Wright, he definitely has experience balancing funny with scary, campy with heartfelt. There's no release date set for Barbarella as of yet.

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