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Bill Paxton dreams of remaking ‘Swiss Family Robinson’

Sarasota -- Bill Paxton wants to remake “Swiss Family Robinson.”

The actor/director broke the news Friday while speaking to digital filmmaking students at Ringling College of Art and Design.

Paxton’s pal and “Twister” cast-mate Scott Thomson also participated in the talk.

It started academic.

“I don’t consider myself a filmmaker,” Paxton said. “I consider myself an image-maker.”

The “Apollo 13” and “Tombstone” star then praised Ringling College, which has been internationally renowned since the 1990s for its computer-animation program.

“This is the best school of its kind in the country -- in the world,” Paxton said.

“Big Love,” the risque HBO series that has earned Paxton several Golden Globe nominations, prompted the most humorous exchange.

“How do you prepare for the sex scenes in ‘Big Love?’ ” asked a female student.

Nervous giggles from the dozens of young adults in attendance.

“There are many preparations,” Paxton said as he flashed a devilish grin.

Laughter filled the Academic Center.

Paxton returned to serious mode, though, when asked what would be the dream project in which to direct himself.

“I want to do the definitive remake of ‘Swiss Family Robinson,’ ” Paxton said.

The 1812 novel by Johan David Wyss has been adapted for the screen several times.

Walt Disney’s 1960 version remains the most famous.

It features John Mills as Father Robinson, the character Paxton would play if he can get the project off the ground.

Following the group Q&A, the Herald conducted a one-on-one interview with Paxton.

“ ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ was never completely rendered,” he said.

Paxton commended Mills’ performance, but said the movie would benefit from modern technology and a superior script. Rather than battle pirates, the Robinsons would fight slave traders.

“They end up protecting a group of escaped slaves,” he said. “It comes down to the final moment where they’re going to give these people up or actually try and defend them.”

Paxton has spoken with a Hollywood heavyweight about the project, but declined to reveal the name.

“I talked to a very prominent producer/filmmaker about the idea of teaming up to do this,” he said. “I just think it would be great to make a little bit more of a butch, PG-13 version of that story -- and I know it’ something that would appeal to an international audience.”

He smiled and added, “The tree house. Just to build that tree house and design that tree house and work with designers and put that thing together with these old ship parts and everything would just be awesome.”

Paxton perked up again when told that Sarasota County had recently approved a grant of $1.75 million for Ringling College to develop a post-production facility on campus.

“That’s fantastic,” he said.

Would Paxton consider using it?

“Certainly,” he said. “In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say I’d love to shoot a movie down here.”

Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at (941) 745-7057. Visit his blog at bradenton.com.

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