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In 2003, South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook upped the ante on psychological thrillers with his revenge-fueled Oldboy. With all the praise and fanboy love the film has been showered in over the past 10 years, you’d have to have a pretty serious ego to attempt to reinterpret this already iconic feature. Enter American iconoclast Spike Lee, who was undaunted by the high bar Chan-wook set and so created his own interpretation, pulling inspiration from the original manga comic on which both films are based.
Fitting then the film is hitting New York Comic Con with its own panel. But the first shocker for this show came upon its announcement, where it was revealed that screenwriter Mark Protosevich, and supporting players Michael Imperioli and Pom Klementieff would be present, but the film’s leads (Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Sharlto Copley, and Josh Brolin) would not, nor would Lee. It’s his hometown, but apparently Comic Con isn’t his scene?
Nonetheless, those giddy over the upcoming release gathered in the Main Stage to see what Oldboy’s writer and co-stars had to say, and to see the exclusive footage the panel description teased. With a story centering on a man who is abducted, imprisoned for twenty years, then abruptly released without knowing why, the film has a wild premise to base its marketing on. So far we’ve a chilling trailer, curious posters, and twisted ad for the creepy hotel at the film’s center. What could the panel possibly have in store?
6:13 - Panel behins with a trailer that teases Brolin's makeover, Imperioli's involvement, a strange buddah duck, Copley, and that bright yellow umbrella that several lucky fans have already scored.
6:15 -- Out come Protosevich, Imperioli and Klementieff followed by a string of women in short kimonos carrying that same umbrella. Protosevich gives the rundown of the film for the smattering of people who showed up to this panel and didn't know what Oldboy was about.
"I know that there are people out there that feel a fundamental resistance to a remake, but I would advocate that you just give us a shot," Protosevich entreated the crowd, insisting he loves the original and feels his script is respectful to it.
Imperioli plays Brolin's long lost friend, who he returns to once he is set loose. Klementieff tells us that she is the female version of Mr. Han from the first film, "I'm a bodyguard for the villain." She trained with stunt men extensively "I was training so hard that I lost a toenail by the end of the movie. It was great!"
6:25 - Special video message from Brolin, waving a cardboard hammer, "I've gone completely insane!" he jokes. Then the clip. Freed and shaved Brolin sits in a restaurant and watches a suit-wearing man who comes in to grab take-out order. He follows him out, grabs a hammer off some women who was coincidentally hammering up a sign nearby, steals the delivery boy's brightly colored bike and follows the man's vehicle itno a garage. The hammer is raised and with bloody explosions two bad guys' heads become piles of gore. God, it's graphic. A third and far more gruesome blow comes to the receptionist. Then comes the confrontation teased in the trailer between Brolin and Jackson, where the former draws a dotted line across the other's next and then pulls out a box cutter. He slices off a sliver of his neck as Jackson curses up a storm. The squishy sounds are grisly, and Brolin says, "I'm going to keep going until I can pull your head off with my bare hands." 6:28 -- Klementieff is giddy to be at Comic Con. She says she loved the original film and adores Lee, insisting she'd given him a kidney if he asked.
6:30 -- Protosevich says this is probably the best work he's ever done. He tells the audience about meeting with Lee. "He respects writers," Protosevich tells us. "The script that he read and the movie we see is actually very very close…(Lee) didn't get in the way in terms of the writing."
6:31 -- Protosevich admits he hadn't been familiar with the Manga until he began working on the project, but (again) loved the movie. He warns us the comic--for the many in the US haven't read it--is very different.
6:32 -- Asked what their favorite part of making the film was, Imperioli says it was watching Klementieff do martial arts was his. The actress was not a martial arist when she began training, but no she is a student of Tae Kwon Do, a purple belt to be exact. She's still taking classes, inspired by making the movie. 6:38 --Awkward. A lot of the questions are essentially, 'If you think the first film is so great, why are you redoing it?" Protosevich says he and Lee think of it like bands doing covers. It can be the same base, but give it a different interpretation, and both versions can be distinctive and beautiful. "If you have this belief that it should never have been done, I can't convince you otherwise."
Maybe this is why Lee's not here? Though I can't help but admit I'd love to see how he handles it. 6:43--While the screenwriter is having to explain himself, Klementieff is winning over the crowd. First she asked a questioner what his costume was, and when he said "Pikachu" she did an impression. Shortly thereafter, a fanboy asked her if she kept the toenail she lost...and if he could have it. (Personal note: Ew.) She laughed, and told him that it had grown back, thanks to her carefully wrapping it in Angry Birds Band-Aids.
6:47--Protosevich continues his campaign by talking about how remakes can be wildly different interpretations instead of retreads. He asks we think of William Friedkin's Sorcerer, which was technically a remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot's Wages of Fear. Both were inspired by the same novel, Le Salaire de la Peur by Georges Arnaud. The embattled but upbeat screenwriter wins some applause when one clever questioner points out that he wrote a scene where Brolin steals a bicycle, which could be called a Goonies throwback. Claps from the Goonies-lovers in the crowd.
6:52--Despite the film's dark nature, things on set were light and enjoyable under Lee's direction. (Can we start calling him Absent-Lee?) Also, everyone is eager to say how wonderful an actor Copley is, and how great he and Brolin both are to work with. Klementieff thinks she is a more instinctive actor, while Copley is far more intellectual. 6:53--Asked for dumpling house recommendations, Imperioli says there's a great place on Hester and Mulberry. Protosevich declines to suggest places in NYC, and Klementieff wins more love saying, "Do I look like a girl who knows about dumplings?" And they're off.
Revisit the film’s wild trailer below:
Oldboy opens on November 27th.
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