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[INTERVIEW] Hollywood's "Remake King" Roy Lee

2010/08/03 | 2159 views | Permalink | Source

Roy Lee [Seoul Digital Forum]

For years, Korean-American producer Roy Lee of Beverly Hills-based Vertigo Entertainment has well maintained his reputation as Hollywood's "Remake King".

It first started with "The Ring", where Lee gained his first onscreen credit as executive producer after selling the remake right of Japanese horror flick "Ringu" on behalf of its Asian distributor to DreamWorks, which became a surprise hit in the United States in 2002, grossing over 129 million dollars on the box office.

Then he did it again in 2004, producing the American remake of Sarah Michelle Gellar starrer "The Grudge" based on Japanese thriller "Ju-On", which holds the record for the biggest horror opening weekend of all time.

His most notable break came with Warner Bros. "The Departed", the U.S. version of Hong Kong film "Infernal Affairs", which handed director Martin Scorsese his biggest opening and won Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 2006.

His productions thereafter, such as "Quarantine" and "The Uninvited", originally Spanish and Korean films, respectively, also fared well on box offices.

10Asia met with 41-year-old Lee who was in Korea to attend Asia's largest genre film fest, the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan).

Q: How has this year's PiFan been for you compared to previous years?
Roy Lee: There hasn’t been much difference in terms of quality of films or people I meet. It’s just one of the few festivals that focus on genre films. Pusan [International Film Festival] is a big mixture of the dramas and art house style movies which is not as exciting as genre movies.

Q: Then do you have a preference for genre films over others?
Lee: I’m interested in anything that tells a unique story and is fairly commercial. And genre pictures just happen to fit that category although I do have a preference over horror movies in just growing up watching them because I liked them. But it all depends on the story of the movie, and whether or not it has commercial appeal in the international marketplace.

Q: What is your take on Korean films and the industry then? Does it have any strengths in particular that stand out for you?
Lee: I like that it is director-driven and that they have a lot more latitude to do the movie they want to do as opposed to the U.S. structure of catering toward the general population all the time where you water down the story, sort of dumb it down, but that’s not necessarily the case here.

Q: What’s the current status of Korean movies in the U.S.? What's the perception on them?
Lee: Well, there hasn’t been many breakout movies as there were a few years ago in terms of getting critical acclaim. Like "Old Boy", "The Chaser" and "Memories of Murder". Fewer movies actually get wider appeal or exposure in the U.S.

Q: Why is that the case?
Lee: It goes with the flow of the creative content industry. And everyone is just waiting for the next Park Chan-wook or Bong Joon-ho film. The U.S. focuses on the director of these movies.

Q: What will it take for Korean movies to be seen in the U.S. like Hollywood films are in Korea? Will it ever happen?
Lee: No, just because they don’t like to read subtitles. The last big subtitle movie after “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" which made about 10 million dollars but I’m sure the U.S. remake will make over 100 million. There’s a ceiling for how much to really expect. The most likely way to make money is Video on Demand or DVD. Otherwise, it should keep doing what every movie should do -- have the balance of a good story and commercial appeal. Just be a good movie with good story.

Q: Then in what ways does the Korean film industry lack?
Lee: I guess in every film industry, there are some movies that have gotten to the point where they shouldn't have been made, like following the trend. When one movie is successful, you see a lot of copy-cat type movies. Ones that aren’t necessarily made for the art but rather made to make money which are the types of movies I don’t enjoy as much.

Q: Just like how it's sort of the trend to produce 3D movies these days?
Lee: Yes, I think certain movies would lend itself to being 3D experiences so that it would attract more people that way but I don’t think general dramas have any reason to be in 3D. Or even going back and converting some of the older movies such as "Gone with the Wind", "Casablanca" ...... It’s more of the spectacle movies like "Spiderman", the action adventure movies that make sense. 3D is something that needs to exist but not everything has to be 3D. But yes, they’ll be a lot of 3D movies for a while because it seems they’re still experimenting with what the audience wants. Some of the more recent examples of 3D though haven’t made much of a difference because they’re now having an analysis of the percentage of money coming in 3D compared to 2D and it’s been declining. Not by a significant amount, but it's declining.

Q: At what stage are your other productions?
Lee: We just finished shooting "Quarantine 2" and just started filming "Abduction" last week. We're then doing a horror movie in September. Development-wise I’m working on over 50 right now but that means that I’m having 50 different scripts written then hoping that they come back in a format that would finance the production.

Jessica Kim jesskim@
<ⓒ10Asia All rights reserved>

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