I’ve spent much of the past week defending the prospects of new installments to the Star Wars franchise. But this weekend brought news of a possible sequel to another famous movie that fills me with horror: Casablanca.
The New York Post is reporting that there’s some momentum behind a decades-old script treatment for a follow-up by one of the original movie’s screenwriters, Howard Koch, which would have focused on the son Ilsa ends up having after finding herself pregnant from her encounter with Rick in Casablanca. The sequel would cast older actors as the original stars, and would bring in the son as an adult character having adventures in the Middle East, a la Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
If it’s sacrilege to recast Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia while Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher are still alive, it’s even more of a sin to do so to Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman now that they’re dead. Those performances are a large part of what makes Casablanca—a movie that has so thoroughly influenced our popular culture that first-time watchers might find it cliché—remarkable. All the scenarios are grim: Ryan Gosling or Channing Tatum as the spawn of Bogey and Bergman? Ugh.
And I shudder to think what the Hollywood happy ending machine would do with Rick and Ilsa’s relationship. Casablanca is an adult romance. The central couple doesn’t actually end up together. A grown man who refers to his lover as “kid” may not actually be good for the long haul. It’s one of the hardest lessons of adult life that some people are better suited for beautiful friendships than epic romances, but it’s one of the smartest lessons of Casablanca. I want to be free to imagine Ilsa and Victor rebuilding their marriage together, their love and their political convictions growing richer with age. And I want to think of Rick shaking off his aversion to “As Time Goes By,” and making himself worthy of another woman entirely. I do not want a definitive ending on this story, and I certainly don’t want to know that my fantasy never came true.