Good news everyone: Mel Gibson has been replaced. With Taraji P. Henson!
Yesterday it was announced that Taraji will be the star and executive producer (alongside Will Packer and James Lopez) of What Men Want, a remake of the 2000 “I guess I’ll watch this on a Saturday when nothing else is on” classic What Women Want. (Just try turning off a Nancy Meyers movie.)
If memory serves, Mel Gibson played an alpha male facing a crisis in the workplace -- a competent and experienced woman became his boss. The cool lothario suddenly found himself surrounded by the mysterious and confounding trickery of women’s brains, like a teenage daughter (periods! Prom night sex!) and an office usurper, played by the infinitely patient (and well-dressed) Helen Hunt. Mel uses his power to steal her ideas and mess with her head, but ultimately becomes a sensitive Good Guy who definitely doesn’t call people “sugar tits” while he’s being arrested.
In the updated version, Taraji is a “female sports agent who has been constantly boxed out by her male colleagues. When she gains the power to hear men’s thoughts, she is able to shift the paradigm to her advantage as she races to sign the NBA’s next superstar.” The updated setting makes an important adjustment. In What Women Want, Mel was using his telepathic powers to gain more of an edge on women, particularly his boss. In What Men Want, it sounds like Taraji will use her skill to level the playing field. (Moving it to the sports world, with all of the built-in machismo, works well too.)
I don’t remember Mel having an ensemble of bros in What Women Want, but that’s because betas are disposable to alphas; friends are there to service their masculinity, not enrich their characters. But Taraji will definitely have a crew – she thrives in ensembles.
And with the updated premise, I still think there’s room for some of the old cast to cameo. Helen Hunt could be the owner of a rival agency looking to take over Taraji’s agency, Judy Greer can play anyone (it’s Judy Greer, she belongs in this), Marissa Tomei can be a kooky ex or ride-or-die best friend. Add to that – who? Who is the NBA athlete she’s trying to land? Who will she divulge her mind-reading secret to? It’s hard to dream-cast without a script but I would love to know who is calling Taraji today, wanting in on this.
And not to sound overly optimistic, but maybe it’s good sign that the marquee name can be plucked out and the gender switched, but the basic story still stands. With a new star, it becomes exciting. And let’s be honest, plucking out Mel Gibson feels especially satisfying.
Here's Taraji at The View in October.