At Friday's panel for Spike Lee's latest, Oldboy, screenwriter Mark Protosevich was on the defense. Facing a room full of fans of Park Chan-Wook's original—a quick, applause-based survey of the audience revealed that most (or at least a loud contingent) was familiar with the 2003 cult favorite—Protosevich reiterated to the crowd just why the film was being made in the first place.
"I know that there are people out there who feel sort of this fundamental resistance to the idea a remake," he said. "I would just advocate give us a shot."
Though the Q&A session seemed to indicate that audience members feared that the US interpretation of the revenge story about a man mysteriously imprisoned for 20 years would not be as dark or as violent as the Korean film, the clip shown would seem perfect for dissuading those concerns. The footage, at one point, showed Josh Brolin's Joe Doucett (Oh Dae-su in the original) taking out men with a hammer and then torturing Samuel L. Jackson's character by cutting chunks out of his neck with an X-ACTO knife.
But early in the Q&A one fan asked whether the film would be as psychologically dark as the original. In his answer Protosevich explained: "I know there are people out there who are skeptical about our version or were and I think the expectation was is that we were going to wimp out or try to make it more palatable to an audience. Everybody involved was very determined to do this as darkly and as intensely our point of view would be that as it was in the original."
As the Q&A progressed other questioners basically alluded to the same point: what's your point? People asked about the challenges of making such a famous movie, about what kind of stamp the American version is going to put on the story, about just how much of a remake this is going to be. (Someone also asked if they could have the toenail that actress Pom Klementieff had revealed earlier in the panel that she lost during training. It's best to just ignore that question though.)
At one point, Protosevich said that he and Lee talked about "cover versions" of songs in approaching the film. He also though repeated that he knows people are going to be stubborn about this. "If you have this belief that it never should have done, I can’t convince you otherwise, all I can say is, I think we approach this from a standpoint of let’s take this and use these wonderful elements that affected us, but then try to make it in some ways your own personal story, to bring elements of it that strike stronger thematic chords in me, in Spike, in the actors."
The film isn't due to be released until the end of November, so fans will have to wait to see if Protosevich's defense is justified.