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[FILM] Is "Yellow" the New "Green" in Hollywood

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  • madchinaman
    Yellow is the New Green in Hollywood By Philip W. Chung, Apr 01, 2005 http://news.asianweek.com/news/view_article.html?
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 7, 2005
      "Yellow" is the New "Green" in Hollywood
      By Philip W. Chung, Apr 01, 2005
      http://news.asianweek.com/news/view_article.html?
      article_id=4ab7c68448a44396b98b6cf24a99787e


      -

      Nakata says he thinks Asian horror films have resonated with
      American audiences because they want more than the cookie-cutter
      films offered to them by U.S. studios.

      Roy Lee wanted to strike out on his own as a producer, and Ring was
      his way out. That film jumpstarted Hollywood's current love affair
      with remaking Asian films and made Lee the go-to producer for such
      remakes.

      "I have over 20 films in development, most of which are remakes of
      Asian titles," explains Lee, who was also a producer on last year's
      hit remake of The Grudge.

      Nakata's atmospheric thrillers (Ringu, Chaos, Dark Water) fired the
      shot heard around the world, heralding a new era of more subtle and
      moody horror films devoid of overt gore and blood.

      Justin Lin (of BLT) attributes Hollywood's recent fascination with
      Asian cinema to the changes in technology that have allowed
      filmmakers from other countries to compete with American studio
      films as well as Hollywood's constant need for fresh voices and
      stories.

      -


      The moment happens near the end of the film. It happens, like all
      great horror scenes, when the audience least expects it. It happens
      when the audience mistakenly believes that evil has been banished
      and all is well.

      It's at this very moment when she crawls out of the television,
      leading to one of the most memorable frights in any horror film.

      She is Sadaka, the ghostly young woman killed in a well who comes to
      take vengeance via a cursed videotape. And the film is Ringu, the
      1998 Japanese classic that became a phenomenon all over Asia,
      launching a horror renaissance and eventually kicking off a frenzy
      in Hollywood for U.S. remakes of Asian films after the American
      version of The Ring (starring Naomi Watts) became a big hit.

      Around the time Ringu was scaring Asian filmgoers but before most
      Americans had even heard of it, an Asian American producer named Roy
      Lee was given a videotape of the movie. He hadn't heard of the film
      or of Ringu's director, Hideo Nakata, but soon both the movie and
      the man would play an important role in his career.

      As Lee started playing the movie, he initially didn't know what to
      expect. But he quickly realized he was seeing something unique.

      "Because I found [Ringu] to be incredibly scary, I couldn't even
      watch it by myself. So I drove over to my friend's house who
      happened to be the vice president of DreamWorks, and we watched it
      together," Lee says. "The next day he was able to get his boss at
      DreamWorks to buy the remake rights for us to produce together."

      At the time that Ringu came along, Lee was the director of
      development at Alphaville productions, which had produced remakes of
      The Mummy and The Jackal. Graduating from law school, he got his
      start in Hollywood as a reader and assistant and worked his way up
      the food chain.

      Lee wanted to strike out on his own as a producer, and Ring was his
      way out. That film jumpstarted Hollywood's current love affair with
      remaking Asian films and made Lee the go-to producer for such
      remakes.

      "I have over 20 films in development, most of which are remakes of
      Asian titles," explains Lee, who was also a producer on last year's
      hit remake of The Grudge.

      Films coming soon include: Dark Water, a remake of another Hideo
      Nakata-directed ghost story, starring Oscar winner Jennifer
      Connelly; Antarctica, a remake of a Japanese film starring Paul
      Walker; Il Mare, from a Korean romantic drama currently shooting
      with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock; The Departed, a remake of the
      Hong Kong cop thriller Infernal Affairs, that is being directed by
      Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull) and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt
      Damon and Jack Nicholson; and The Eye, a remake of a Hong Kong
      thriller that will be directed by Nakata.

      Lee, Hollywood's reigning remake monarch, owes his kingdom's
      existence to the soft-spoken Nakata.

      Nakata's atmospheric thrillers (Ringu, Chaos, Dark Water) fired the
      shot heard around the world, heralding a new era of more subtle and
      moody horror films devoid of overt gore and blood.

      Hollywood not only went after his films but also courted Nakata
      himself. He initially came stateside to helm a thriller for MGM
      starring Bruce Willis, but right when that project fell apart, the
      producers of The Ring 2 were searching for a replacement director
      and snatched up Nakata to make his American film debut.

      Having directed Ringu and its first sequel in Japan, Nakata did have
      initial concerns about repeating himself. "When I read the script
      for [the American version of] Ring 2, it was totally different from
      what I had done before," he says. "What I liked about the story was
      that it was also a strong human drama."

      So Nakata accepted the job.

      A year later, on March 18, 2005, Ring 2 opened in theaters across
      the country (the film is still currently in general release). That
      morning, as he eagerly anticipated how the film would perform at the
      box office, Nakata took a Zen approach to everything at stake with
      his first U.S. picture. "I had been nervous for the past several
      days earlier this week," he explains. "But I realized I can't work
      on the movie anymore. It's done and out of my hands. So I'm calm
      already now."

      Ring 2 grossed $35 million its first weekend, coming in at the top
      of the box office — so it turns out Nakata had nothing to worry
      about. It looks as if U.S. remakes of Asian films, especially horror
      movies, will continue to be sought after by Hollywood.

      Nakata says he thinks Asian horror films have resonated with
      American audiences because they want more than the cookie-cutter
      films offered to them by U.S. studios. "The American mainstream is
      bored with the gore and splatter films," he continues. "The Asian
      films are more atmospheric. I call them `quiet horror movies.' Maybe
      American audiences wouldn't have been open to this type of film 10
      or 15 years ago, but now I think they want something new and are
      open to it."

      But the non-horror remakes are also about to take center stage (last
      year's remake of the Japanese hit Shall We Dance, starring Richard
      Gere, was a modest success). Hollywood is betting American audiences
      will respond to remakes from other genres as they have to the horror
      ones.

      Better Luck Tomorrow director Justin Lin is currently directing his
      first studio film, Annapolis, for Disney. It's a remake of the
      violent Korean drama Oldboy. After the success of Better Luck
      Tomorrow, Lin was offered a number of projects, which he turned down.

      But over dinner with a Universal executive, Lin was pitched the idea
      of remaking Oldboy, which, at the time, he knew nothing about.

      "His pitch was very simple," Lin remembers. "He basically said this
      was the story of a guy who gets kidnapped and held captive and he
      and the audience doesn't know why. Fifteen years later, he's
      released and he and the audience still don't know why. So the guy
      sets out to get revenge on whoever did this to him."

      Lin was intrigued and screened the film the very next day.

      "I loved the themes and the story," Lin says. "I wasn't interested
      in remaking the film so much as taking [the concept] and exploring
      that."

      Lin attributes Hollywood's recent fascination with Asian cinema to
      the changes in technology that have allowed filmmakers from other
      countries to compete with American studio films as well as
      Hollywood's constant need for fresh voices and stories.

      "Since Sundance, I've been offered a lot of remakes," Lin says, "not
      just Asian films, but from all over — Europe, Argentina. Development
      takes years and years so taking a film that already exists and
      [adapting it] helps truncate that development time."

      Lee also credits the Internet as a major force that has made foreign
      films more accessible to Americans than they have been in the past.

      But like Lin, Lee feels the main reason for the ascendancy of Asian
      films in America is that the quality of the films themselves has
      improved and that the lower budgets Asian filmmakers must use have
      forced them to be more creative.

      "The fact that [Asian filmmakers] have lower budgets actually makes
      the films more interesting because oftentimes the filmmakers use
      ingenious techniques that, while they are `low-tech,' can be more
      effective than the standard techniques of Hollywood filmmakers," Lee
      says. "I sometimes dislike the use of CGI technology when it makes
      the film feel fake and like a cartoon rather than a reality."

      But whether this trend continues will depend on Hollywood's and the
      American public's often fickle tastes. But one thing seems evident:
      The success of these remakes is unlikely to have any positive impact
      on Asian American artists since most, if not all, of these remakes
      are re-cast with Caucasian or non-Asian stars.

      "The doors have opened for some Asian directors to cross over, but
      none of this is going to benefit Asian Americans," Lin
      explains. "Because I'm an Asian American filmmaker and I'm going to
      remake an Asian film, some journalists try to create an angle that
      doesn't exist. What it comes down to is this: We have to create our
      own stars and our own opportunities so we can have names that can
      open a picture. But that hasn't happened yet."
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