When he was studying film at college, Peter Stults (left), an Illustrator and Designer from New York, used to come up with imaginary movie ideas and turn them into movie posters using a mix of Photoshop and collage.
Fifteen years on, the New York-based graphic designer makes modern movies look like old classics of Hollywood’s golden era in his What If series. The What If series was started in 2012 and asks the hypothetical questions movie buffs didn’t know they needed answers to. Such as, what if Cecil B. DeMille had directed Interstellar? Or what if Reservoir Dogs had been made at the height of the Rat Pack era? And most importantly, what would the vintage movie posters for these films look like if they had been made?
The eight-part series suggests a 1950s-era Audrey Hepburn as Natalie Portman’s character from V for Vendetta, Gene Wilder in the title role of Ant-Man, and Michael Jackson as Star-Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy. Not only are the cast lists of these alternate movies posters pulled from a different era, but the style in which they’re created also calls back to the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Peter Stults said that “people assume I don’t like modern movies – I do, but I am attracted to the poster art of the golden age.” He spends weeks, sometimes months, researching directors, actors and studios in a quest to make the posters look as authentic as possible. “I like it when I trick people into thinking the modern movie is a remake of the film in my poster. If I can do that, I’m doing my job right.”.
GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
“This was only my second poster for a silent-era movie and it was a lot of fun to make. I had originally planned on a mid-90s version starring Claire Forlani, or a 60s version with Audrey Hepburn, but this works better.”
“I think Marlon Brando captures the ambiguities of the character – did he kill her? Is he insane? Is he innocent? And I’d recently seen Vanessa Redgrave in The Devils and she seemed perfect.”
“This has such an all-star cast – Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett – so it was all about finding their equivalents from the mid-50s, just after World War Two.”
“This was one of the first ones I made. I’m not saying Charlton Heston is like John Travolta, but I was amused by the idea of him doing a Tarantino monologue. In the cast list, I was picking and choosing actors I’d want to see in that film – I’ll let viewers decide which characters they’d play.”
“Science fiction films are really fun to do. You can see there’s a lot going on here, many things happening at once. As a poster it’s telling a story.”
“I did this for a friend who was trying to impress a girl who had a crush on Paul Newman. He was suave, he could play cocky: he could have pulled off this role. The Iron Man outfit in the background is based on Doctor Who’s Cybermen.”
“Here, I wanted to create an epic space movie. Cecil B DeMille’s next project after The Ten Commandments was going to be a space exploration film, but he died, so I like to imagine that this is the movie he would have made.”
“I’d been wanting to do this for a while. I thought Bridesmaids was hilarious, so I had a think about all the women that had made me laugh from non-contemporary films, and put them all in a movie together.”
“This is the one that makes most people say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know The Hangover was a remake.’ It’s one of the first ones I made. You’ve got the good-looking, jerk type guy, the square nerdy type, the wildcard comedic role and the blonde bombshell. It all just clicked.”
“This seemed very obvious to me: a young heartthrob, and the pop culture phenomenon of James Dean dying in a car crash. A lot of people think it should be an action star like Steve McQueen, but actually Drive was Ryan Gosling’s first action role.”
“The picture in the top left, of the four women on the beach, is from an antiques store in New York City. I don’t know the story behind that, but it reminds me of the cast in the film.”
WILD AT HEART
“Here, I couldn’t find a way in, but I read about a TV movie where Kurt Russell played Elvis, and in the film Nicolas Cage has such an Elvis feel. The picture is a still from a movie they did before they got together, from the 80s.”
“I remember watching this again recently, and it was very slow, very gradual. The pacing reminded me of Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven or The Tree of Life.”
NOTE: Images sourced from and created by Peter Stults. Unfortunately they are not for sale.