Rounders is a film that has grown to be part of poker culture since its release in 1998. After initially flopping at the box office, it’s rightly been recognized as a cult classic by those who caught the poker bug around the turn of the century.
It was way ahead of its time in terms of subject matter, poker exploded in popularity after the millennium, with Matt Damon and Edward Norton becoming a key part of that culture. It made around $22.9m (£18.5m) in the US, from a budget of $12m (£9.72m).
Since films like Rounders, participation levels in poker skyrocketed, with 8,569 taking part in this year’s WSOP event. The multitude of guides available online are a testament to how accessible the game is with partypoker helping beginners get up to speed quickly and live out their fantasies like their onscreen heroes Mike McDermott and Lester ‘Worm’ Murphy. But is it possible that modern-day players could get the chance to see those heroes again, 20 years later?
Matt Damon doesn’t think so. Speaking to Card Player he stated that films like Rounders, as well as another early hit for him Good Will Hunting won’t get made anymore. With the DVD market dying away to be replaced by Netflix and streaming, slow-building films with little action are becoming rarer by the day.
Despite it not being the sort of genre that brings a hit in the modern age, the all-star cast would surely be a big draw. 20 years ago, Edward Norton and Matt Damon were not such huge box office figures, which might make a sequel tough to finance. It would certainly cost more to get them on board but they are simply intrinsic to any sequel’s success.
Norton hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a second film either; speaking to David Letterman in 2014, he said “I think there is a possibility of it. Yeah, we couldn’t have had more fun making that movie.”
A report by Deadline even suggested that Robert De Niro could replace John Malkovich as the supervillain of the hour. Whilst it might seem like a big ask, especially given the involvement of Miramax and their recent troubles, it’s not unheard of for a sequel to come out so late after the original.
Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting was a cult movie in the nineties that encapsulated the culture of the time perfectly. In 2017, Trainspotting 2 came out as a vastly different film which examined themes of growing up and moving on. Could Rounders 2 explore fresh themes, the ongoing popularity of poker perhaps?
What happened to Worm after the end of the last movie? Did he move on from hustling and clean up his act? Did Mike ever go back to law school, or did he make a million playing the tables?
These are the questions a generation of poker fans would love to see answered. Matt Damon or Edward Norton would need to use their profiles to push for a sequel on the back of poker’s mass appeal. With their backing, and if an ambitious film company saw the success of the first film and were willing to take a gamble, Rounders 2 could be a surprise hit.