Back in 2008, a particularly baffling news story started to circulate throughout the entertainment community: Steven Spielberg and Will Smith were going to remake Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook’s beloved revenge thriller Oldboy. The cries of outrage from Asian cinema fans could be heard across the globe as everyone imagined Smith hamming it up in the intense lead role – a part played to perfection by Min-sik Choi in the original. Thoughts of Spielberg helming such an intense thriller were no less comforting.
The duo tried to allay concerns by insisting they weren’t out to remake Park’s film, but rather craft a movie version of the manga that inspired it. Needless to say, that didn’t calm anyone down. Oldboy is considered a “new classic” in Asian cinema, and Hollywood has demonstrated that it’s not particularly good at remaking these sorts of films (notable exception being The Departed, which was a westernized version of Infernal Affairs – but that film had Scorsese behind it...) in the first place.
The planned project seemed to die a quick (and merciful) death when Spielberg and Smith ran into rights issues over the property. It appeared that there would be no American-ized Oldboy remake after all…until today.
Twitch has posted breaking news that Mandate, the production company with the rights to the remake, is currently in talks with Spike Lee to helm the project.
Spike Lee might be the oddest choice to direct a remake of a Korean revenge thriller at first blush – yet the filmmaker’s work on movies like Inside Man demonstrate that he’s more than capable of making this kind of film. While we’re still largely opposed to a westernized version of Park’s film, Spike Lee is a pretty interesting choice. If nothing else, we know Lee will make his own movie, rather than just ape elements of Park’s version. That being said, remaking Oldboy is still a horrible idea.
We will admit that it’s kind of fun to imagine which actors Lee might cast in the various roles given his penchant for working with a select group of thespians. Right off the bat, it’s easy to envision a Spike Lee-directed Oldboy wherein Samuel L. Jackson takes on the Min-sik Choi role and sets out for revenge after being held prisoner in a hotel room for 15 years, only to discover that Denzel Washington is behind it all. Honestly, ten or so years ago, that could have been awesome.
Asian film fans shouldn’t start freaking out yet, though – Lee and Mandate are simply talking at this stage. The Oldboy remake could fizzle out again, leaving the Korean original alone in the spotlight. As much as some of us here love Spike Lee (guilty as charged…), an Oldboy remake is probably not the film he should be making this stage of his career.