In Chan-wook Park’s 2003 cult-classic Oldboy, the second film in his “Vegence Trilogy,” an alcoholic, absent father wakes up to find himself imprisoned in a mysterious cell. There are no explanations, no signs of who might of done this to him. His only access to the outside world is a television set and a tray of dumplings shoved through his door every day.
Earlier this year, Park made his English-language debut with the visceral Stoker. This week, Oldboy will make its English-language debut under the direction of Spike Lee. As expected, Lee’s Oldboy is a translation, rather than shot-for-shot remake of the Korean original. There are still plenty of bloody, hammer-heavy fight scenes and unpleasant plot twists, but the edges are softened: the protagonist (played by Josh Brolin) is imprisoned for 20 rather than 15 years; while in captivity, his daughter Mia, and not the promise of revenge, is his source of solace.
“I wasn’t cast right off the bat,” admits Elizabeth Olsen of her role in Lee’s film. “I read our script and then I saw the original film.” Olsen plays Marie Sebastian, a recovered drug addict-turned-nurse who pledges to help Brolin’s character find his daughter. “It was all very collaborative,” Olsen explains, “Spike immediately would ask, ‘Do you want to change this line? Do you want to change this background point of view?’” she continues. “We did rehearsals for a couple weeks and we just sat around a table—me, him, and Josh—and we just read through every scene and rewrote scenes.”
EMMA BROWN: Had you ever worked in such a collaborative environment before?
ELIZABETH OLSEN: Not a lot. But with Spike, because he has so much experience, he feels more confident collaborating. It’s amazing that, to a certain extent, his experience in film has made him a better collaborator.
BROWN: Some of the scenes in the movie are quite violent or emotionally trying. What was the most difficult scene to film?
OLSEN: Probably the scene where I’m attacked. I haven’t thought about it in a while because, in hindsight, you make jokes about it and you get funny stories from it. When I was talking about it earlier today, I started to realize that it took a couple days probably to get over. Even if you can laugh about it, it’s still the physical things that your body has to go through, it’s pretty insane.
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December 2, 2013
If all were right with the world, Elizabeth Olsen would be an Academy Award winner by now. As a scarred ex-cult member in 2011′s Martha Marcy May Marlene, Olsen (the younger sister of Mary Kate and Ashley) gave one of the finest breakthrough performances in recent memory, conveying a fractured psyche with eerie believability. The turn didn’t land Olsen a Best Actress nod, but it did open a great many doors for the 22-year-old, who has since played more beautiful-yet-troubled women in both last year’s Silent House and the newly released Oldboy—a remake of 2003′s South Korean cult classic. Directed by Spike Lee, the new film casts Olsen as Marie, a social worker who forms a bond with Joe Doucette (Josh Brolin), a rough-and-tough, long-imprisoned antihero who, as anyone who has seen the original knows, is tied to a horror house of unsettling secrets. Sitting down with Details at New York City’s Conrad Hotel, Olsen dished on the virtues of remakes, why fashion is tougher than film, and how she feels about nude scenes.
DETAILS: Was it a difficult decision to say, “Yes, I’m going to plunge into this edgy world of Oldboy?”
ELIZABETH OLSEN: I love how every time I talk about a movie with people, they assume that I was offered a part. [Laughs] I tried to get this job. I didn’t audition, because they didn’t ask me to, but I would have. I read the script, and it was my first experience with the story, and then I saw the [original] movie the same day. And I loved it. I was just like, “This is crazy. This is heart-wrenching. This is awful.” I never knew it was going to go where it ends up going.
DETAILS: How do you feel about the argument that the film, a cult favorite, shouldn’t have been remade?
ELIZABETH OLSEN: My brother’s a big film guy, and he was like, “Why would you do that?” And I said, “Well, why would you do Romeo and Juliet 100 times?” [Oldboy] is a good story, and to me, it reminds me of this Oedipus complex or something. If you have this amazing story to tell, with this complex relationship, which turns on itself at the end and shocks people, why not tell that again in 10 years, in a different way? I have no qualms about doing it.
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November 22, 2013
Elizabeth Olsen is on the brink of stardom with the coming blockbusters “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” to be released in 2015, and “Godzilla,” which will be out next year.
So far, the budding actress is best known for her critically acclaimed turn in “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and other indies like “Kill Your Darlings,” starring Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg, which is out now. Oh, and yes, she also happens to be the younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
The beautiful actress glided into the claustrophobic room at the Conrad Hotel in Manhattan’s financial district last week, dressed casually and looking radiant, to discuss her role in the new Spike Lee thriller “Oldboy,” which will be released Friday, Nov. 22, 2013.
The previous night, the actress had just completed her final performance of “Romeo and Juliet” Off Broadway. “It feels so good to be done,” she said. She described the experience as fun but exhausting. “It’s funny, I had such an itch to do a play, and I did it and once it was the last performance I was, ‘Get me out of here!’” she laughed. “I feel like that about genres. I got that out of my system, on to the next!”
“Oldboy” is Spike Lee’s reinterpretation of the Korean revenge thriller directed by Park Chan Wook, which came out a decade ago and won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. It became an instant cult classic but didn’t have a wide American audience. Spike Lee’s reimagining of the cult class is violent in so many creative ways and is definitely not for the squeamish.
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[x032] Public Appearances > 2013 > November 11: Oldboy New York Premiere
Also, the premiere of Oldboy will take place tonight in New York, so check back for more updates later!