‘Taking Of Pelham’ Not As Easy As ‘123,’ Says Screenwriter

Four hijackers overtake a NYC subway car, override the “dead-man’s switch” – a fail-safe which is supposed to ensure a human driver – manage to extort a $1 million ransom, and then escape off the train before sending it hurtling around the bowels of Manhattan, ensuring that police all head the wrong way.

To call the plan at the center of 1974’s “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” genius is an understatement. But how in the world would it work today – with passengers all carrying cell phones, with GPS, with laptop computers and thermo-imaging? That’s the big dilemma for screenwriter David Koepp, who recently adapted the novel for director Tony Scott and star Denzel Washington.

“I wrote many drafts to try and put it in the present day and keep all the great execution that was there from the first one,” he explained. “It’s thirty years later so you have to take certain things into account. Hopefully we came up with a clever way to move it to the present.”

Not the least of which, of course, is that even forgetting for a moment the new technology, it’s a terrorist situation in New York in a “post-9/11 world,” said Koepp.

But beyond basic updates the story will remain essentially familiar, noted Koepp, calling the original a “great hero vs. villain thing.”

“There’s certainly a lot there from the original because it was a really skillful piece of screenwriting,” he said.

Seeing as how their plan wouldn’t seem to work as is today, how would you update the terrorists’ story? Sound off below. And, oh – “Gezundheit!”