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Liza Foreman 2008-11-09
Korean film wave ripples to the U.S.

Remakes galore, including DW pursuit of 'Old Boy'

Remake rights to Korean feature films have long attracted the interest of the Hollywood studios -- but not the biggest director in town.

That all changed Friday when Steven Spielberg's camp confirmed that his DreamWorks Pictures is working on a deal to secure the U.S. remake rights to Korean director Park Chan-woo's hit "Old Boy" from the current rights holder, Mandate Pictures. Spielberg would direct Will Smith in the starring role.

Mandate is expected to remain a part of the new project as a financier or producer alongside Vertigo Entertainment, which originally acquired the rights with Universal Pictures back in 2004. Universal will distribute under the proposed DreamWorks deal.

After approaching potential writers, word spread of Spielberg's intentions as far as Seoul in recent days, where the film's original sales representative, Suh Young-Joo of Finecut (formerly Cineclick Asia), said that she just did not believe the news.

"The film has got a lot of potential as a Hollywood remake," said Ji Young-joon of Egg Film, the co-producer of the original "Old Boy," which sold more than 3 million tickets in Korea in 2003. "It touches on guilt, taboo and original sin -- issues that are easily identifiable to Western audiences."

Since Miramax acquired the remake rights from Cinceclick Asia to the Korean title "My Wife's A Gangster" back in 2001, a steady slew of Korean titles have been snapped up by studios here. Still, many of them have yet to be realized.

DreamWorks' "The Uninvited," a remake of "The Tale of Two Sisters" is the first of a series of Korean remake deals brokered by Cineclick, which will hit the big screen here in the coming months.

"I am very excited to see it," said Young-Joo who sold the rights to the film several years back, and whose company's profit-share scheme in these films means that they wait until they're actually made to see their returns.

Young-Joo also sold "Old Boy" to Universal; Lee Chang Dong's "Oasis" to Mosaic in 2004; and, most recently, the Cannes title "The Chaser," which sold to Warner Bros. this summer. Writer William Monahan and Leonardo DiCaprio are reportedly involved with the remake.

Korea's CJ Entertainment also has closed a number of remake deals over the years for films such as the Warner Bros. title "The Lake House," which grossed $52 million in the U.S.; and New Regency's "Mirrors," which made $30 million this summer.

CJ also recently completed a deal on Park's latest film "Thirst," with Universal to part finance the film and release it Stateside.

"It usually takes a few years for these films to be realized," said CJ vp international film financing and distribution Josh Lee, who added that CJ may have more remake deals to announce this week at the AFM. "There is still a lot of interest."

Another Korean company, Mirovision, also has made a number of remake deals in recent years. The company's "My Sassy Girl" was originally picked up by DreamWorks then went to Gold Circle, which produced the film for the U.S. market; and "Driving My Wife's Lover," which sold at Pusan last month to Circle of Confusion.

"There is still a strong interest in remakes, including in the presales market," Chae said.

"The success of a remake lies on how well you extract the core sentiment in the original and deliver that into a new work," Young-Joon said. " 'Old Boy' lends more materials for Hollywood to work with to suit their context than other remakes of Korean films done in the past like 'My Sassy Girl.' "

DreamWorks is no stranger to remakes, with its Japanese franchise "Ring" and "Ring 2."

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