Chungmuro/Film News
Hollywood to remake another Korean film
by | November 7, 2008 | 94 Comments

Hollywood is remaking Oldboy.

Unlike other failed Chungmuro-to-Hollywood remakes, this one carries a lot more cachet — production is in talks with Steven Spielberg to direct, and Will Smith to star. Well, I don’t care and I’ll say:

No. No, no, no no NO.

Look. I didn’t really care that much about My Sassy Girl because I pretty much knew it would get the shit throwaway rom-com treatment and flop. I didn’t really care too much about The Lake House even though I love Il Mare, because that, too, was a crap adaptation that would barely make a blip on the radar. I don’t even care about them remaking Sam-soon because even though I won’t write it off as an imminent failure, I don’t actually think it will happen. And if it does, it will bear few of the hallmarks that made the kdrama such a hit. The Mirror is bound for the B-level horror shelf, and I’m already bracing myself against the new remake of the excellent Tale of Two Sisters. The bastardization of Korean films by Hollywood is annoying, but I can close my eyes and forget about them because they have largely failed to make any sort of impact.

But this upsets me, and not because I’m protective of Oldboy or anything particular to the film itself. Although I do think they’ve picked an ambitious project, it’s more that this is the straw that broke the camel’s back.

What pisses me off is that there’s this growing sense that somehow Hollywood is the end-all and be-all of everything, EVAR, and that somehow everything good must be purchased and repackaged and buffed and relabeled with the Hollywood stamp. God, Hollywood, YOU DON’T HAVE TO PUT YOUR THUMB IN EVERY SINGLE GODDAMN PIE.

Can’t you leave some things alone? Why do you always have to wave your dick in everyone’s face and assume we will marvel at its size? Is that crude? Well, I find your brash cultural insensitivity crude. It’s not the remaking itself that I take issue with — nothing intrinsically wrong with adaptations of stories — but the arrogant, careless attitude with which you scour the international markets for more carcasses to pick to feed your own bloated ego. Why do you seem to think that nothing is complete until you have co-opted it for your own commercial gain?

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Better yet, if it ain’t broke, DON’T BREAK IT.

Via IS Plus, Variety


94 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. chrono

    first ^^

  2. chrono

    ok..WTF!!??? no more remakes damn it >_< stupid Hollywood!!!

  3. pearl

    I concur! I don’t enjoy remakes. 🙁

  4. asik g

    Seriously?! I go tired of all this let’s-make-a-new-crappy-movie-from-good-asian-movie thing and didn’t even pay too much attention to the remakes, but messing up with The Tale of Two Sisters and Old Boy and now even MNIKSS is really pissing me off. Now I can see hundreds of Hollywood’s special agents, watching Korean stuff and talking to eachother ‘yeah, let’s do this’ ‘sure, this one too’ ‘oh, they liked this one as well, so why not?’ . Someone should tell them they work for cinematography, not for Nike – here ‘Just do it’ sometimes is simply annoying and tiring.

  5. mzpakipot

    I think they can’t do this film any wrong. Hollywood made a remake of “Infernal Affairs” called the Departed. I heard it did really well. I noticed that Americans are more into this kind of genre nowadays. ie. dark knight.

    I do agree with originality.

  6. popcorn

    Go! Voice your words! I agree! 😛

  7. CS

    Mzpakipot, as someone who watched both “Infernal Affairs” and “the Departed,” I have to say that they really dumbed it down for the American audience. Also, I didn’t feel for any of the characters. You didn’t see the internal struggles in “the Departed” as you did in “Infernal Affairs.” So I guess the remake may do well in it’s own right, however, it rarely does it as well as the original.

  8. annonymous

    well I dunno. While I do agree that the majority of these Korean remakes (or any other remake of a foreign media) have been pretty bad I don’t think it’s to the extent that has made you so mad. Most likely a lot of the people involved in putting out these movies are out there just to make an easy buck, but I’m sure that some of the creative staff honestly just wants to share a good story to an audience who may not have heard or will even had a chance to see the original and because of that maybe these people will be encouraged to see the original. That’s what happened to me when I saw “Shall we dance?”

    Granted the other movies were flops (the originals weren’t that great either imo), but I think that if people like Steven Spielberg and Will Smith do get involved with this project, it will be given the due respect and effort that these other movies lacked. Ugly Betty is a remake too and I love that show to bits and pieces (and although I never saw the original I wish I could), I don’t really see a show like Ugly Betty being an ugly thing that Hollywood has made to show the world it’s better than anything else. And let’s not forget that Old Boy is based off a Japanese manga. I’m sure a lot of manga purists probably didn’t appreciate it being adapted into a movie when it first came out in Korea.

    I plan on keeping an open mind and treating these remakes on a case by case basis. The remakes aren’t being made by the same people everytime so I don’t think it’s really fair to write off something that could potentially be really good.

  9. moomincandylalala

    NOOOOOOOOOO! There only needs to be one Old Boy. Period.

    Choi Min sik = Old Boy
    Will Smith = Fresh Prince
    They are clearly from two different planets.

    And b4 yelling at Hollywood for picking up these Korean remake projects, I think we should be talking to those greedy people who sold their intellectual property to the Hollywood chopping board. What’s in it for them? Fame (I don”t think they would get much public recognition for the remake)? Money? I want to hear the thoughts of the writers and the producers. Did they agree whole heartedly to this or was it up to the production companies that own the rights?

    Hollywood can’t make something if the original don’t agree to sell the rights first, right?

    It must be like seeing your child come out from plastic surgery gone seriously wrong….

  10. 10 javabeans

    ^ Anon: The rant wasn’t against the suckiness of the remakes (although most do suck). It was more about the general Hollywood douchebaggery that I’m sick of at this point. And I have some experience with Hollywood douchebaggery so that may have fed into it a bit. (Or maybe a lot, hehe.)

  11. 11 momo

    huh? i thought they weren’t going to make this remake because of the VA shooting. and i agree, and hate shitty remakes Hollywood makes, even their remakes of their own old films like Black Christmas

  12. 12 momo

    oh and why Will Smith? i don’t see him as the guy! why not someone like Edward Norton or do they want someone older, cause Will Smith does not look in his 40s or 50s

  13. 13 Fel

    Hollywood isn’t what it used to be. Everything is about how much money they can milk out of whatever they make. Just look at Disney. Kids come in on one side, and when they come out, they are like mini money-makin’ divas. It’s like a childfactory. They go where the money flows.

    Clearly Hollywood sees that there is some gold made in the korean movie market and I don’t think they will give up until they’ve ruind every movie(and drama) hit there is. Soon I’ll betcha there will be bollywood remakes too!

  14. 14 addicted

    Oldboy has such a passionate cult following that it’ll be tough for Hollywood’s version to even live up to. Most of these Korean remakes fail due to the simple fact that these stories are entirely culturally base.

  15. 15 iaia-chan


  16. 16 nixxochick

    i couldn’t of said it better….i totally agree with you
    its sad how they think that whatever they do is gold or whatever they touch will turn to gold when for the most part its pretty mediocre

  17. 17 Ivuson

    NOW you notice!?!



    But in all seriousness this isn’t anything new. Hollywoods been hijacking films ever since there has been a Hollywood. They are sooooooo creativity starved that most films that come out these days are either remakes of foreign films or cannibalized versions of their OWN earlier films. All the hacks in Hollywood see something good and instantaneously think that they can do it bigger AND better.

    Let’s look at Will Smith(40 btw) for a small microcosm of how desperate Hollywood is for material. He alone has been in two remakes, two sequels, and three based on true story films. The lack of originality is palpable.

    The fact that they’re now stealing from Korean films as well, if anything, is a sign of how strong the Hallyu movement has become. The sincerest form of flattery is imitation and there is no bigger “flatterer” than Hollywood.

  18. 18 Liv

    If Hollywood ever credited the markets that they stol…. AHEM borrowed their ideas from, so that people could watch the (infinitely better) original and at least give a chance to the original actors to get more international exposure too, I wouldnt be as irritated by their bastardi.. AHEM remakes. However, since they present every idea …”taken” from an international market as their own super original clever cute idea that our wonderful screenwriters came up with, its a lose lose situation all around. The original actors dont get credit or exposure, the original idea loses reputation/credit due to being associated with the remade flop, and the remake…sucks. If you notice though, when they are remaking films from the American market, credit is always given where its due – in fact, the American originals often experience renewed popularity because people say “hmmm I’ll watch the original just to make sure it wasnt as crap as the remake”……

  19. 19 anne

    omg u are soooo right!
    like really!
    like, nothing is actually worthy or of any true merit until some lame loser stuck up company in AMERICA does something with it
    like seriously?!!

  20. 20 Icia

    I think it’s great… Just another opportunity to say to people who watched the bastardised version.. ‘oh, but the original was SO much better…’ (a statment often and happily overused but oh, so true…)

    It was only time, Korea. They did it to HK (Infernal Affairs *nooooooo*), Japan (The Ring *need I say more*), Thai (Jessica Alba in The Eye remake *what were they thinking*) so now Korea. Great.

  21. 21 Toya

    As much as I like Will Smith……


  22. 22 Shaenna

    I completely agree with you javabeans… I will say again what I have said before, Why can’t “Hollywood” just show those movies as is, and somehow work out a deal so both companies of production benifit. That way the movie keeps it’s original meaning and so on and so forth…….

  23. 23 Lisa

    you said it, remakes are fine just don’t do it half-assed.

  24. 24 Liv

    Also @Fel
    I doubt Bollywood remakes are on the horizon. If Bride and Prejudice proved anything, it proved that Hollywood has NO IDEA how to handle that genre. That movie was embarassingly absymal.

  25. 25 Dahee Fanel


  26. 26 Alysha

    Why does Hollywood remake everything?

    It’s not Hollywood that is remaking everything for a profit, it’s the dumb American audience. I won’t speak for us all, but the majority of English speaking Americans don’t feel like sitting in a theater for an hour and a half having to read subtitles or spend time thinking about the hidden meaning in many foreign films. They go for one to two hours of entertainment, end point.

    It’s lame that Hollywood releases soo many remakes a year, but like someone above has already stated, it’s been like that since the beginning of “Hollywood”. But as every movie lover already knows, the original will ALWAYS be superior to the remake, and many times there are people that didn’t even know the new movie was a remake and in turn it sheds light on the original, bringing in a completely new audience to love and adore the first film.

  27. 27 Tumbleweed

    No! Why?!

    I agree with you 100%, I’m so sick of Hollywood grabbing at everyone else’s things just because they can’t come up with anything new. My heart seriously dropped to my feet when I read that headline. Can’t the owners of the rights to Oldboy say no? I mean, if it was me I’d tell them to shove their money and leave my country alone. And what the hell, Will Smith? As much as I love him, no. Just no. I’m appalled, seriously appalled…horrofied…no more coherent sentences coming out.


  28. 28 yetti

    man, you’re pissy today

  29. 29 Carmie

    They need to stop with the remakes and start creating their own shit.

  30. 30 Lisa

    Okay, this is going to sound racist, but it’s not how I mean it.

    One of the most superb moments in Old Boy is that realization at the end of the movie (don’t want to spoil anything so won’t be specific)… which is in part such a surprise because of the very amazing casting job done to, um, make it less obvious… as in, the girl in the movie doesn’t automatically trigger you to think she’s a certain age, or has a certain resemblance to anyone else in the movie.

    I know this is going to sound bad, but seriously, Will Smith and a 20 something african-american girl is going to be super obvious…I feel like I would automatically make the association (I’m not saying black people look alike at all, but they have to strike a casting balance between plausible resemblance and not obvious resemblance… and race is still such a huge issue in America, so I think it would just be blatant).

    also… Old Boy is like, a cinematic and philosophical masterpiece in a multi-dimensional sense… remaking it would be pointless and blatant opportunism

  31. 31 Amelia

    They’re going to change the ending, aren’t they? I analyzed Old Boy for a film course and I really doubt that American audiences are ready for the twist/ending of the film. Though, I would be interested to see the reaction if they went with the original ending. And Will Smith is a bit too “nice guy” for the role. Just doesn’t fit unless, of course, they change the story.

  32. 32 snoopyvkd

    omo! what a coincidence!

    I met Mr. Choi Min Shik thursday!!! He is actually in Paris for a korean film festival, and he was so kind to come see our class at the korean cultural center. I haven’t seen Oldboy yet or any other of his film. But he seem to be an actor with a lot of professionalism and a very humble man.
    I guess remake projects also means that korean cinema is highly appraised.
    And as Shaenna said, why not just play the original? Maybe this is still difficult in America.
    Here in Europe, people have been watching translated american movies for very long. You could only find 2 theater who would play orignials with subs. That used to be a pain for me, I’d rather wait for the DvD release. Can you imagine Choi Min Shik face moving his lips with some other voice speaking french?! or vice versa, Will Smith face speaking in korean?! Ridiculous!!
    But things are changing slowly, as the younger generation has grown japanese anime, english pop. But it’s still not very popular, because people say “it’s too tiring to read the subs”.
    I think ther’s still a long way to go. But hey! It’s their loss!

  33. 33 belleza

    It bothers everybody when Hollywood remakes Asian product, but it doesn’t bother anybody when China, Korea, and Japan repeatedly makes each other product, or when C/J/K-pop remakes each other country’s (and America’s) music? Where was everybody when Japan remade My Sassy Girl? How would people feel if we say that Hana Yori Dango shouldn’t be made into a Korean show because it’s a JAPANESE story?!? Or when Korea remade Grey’s Anatomy and CSI, where was the outcry there?

    And what about that Hollywood has remade product from the UK, France, and other countries for 50 years? Should I avoid the Magnificent Seven, because it ain’t as good as Seven Samurai? Should I stop watching American Idol because it’s a remake of another country’s show. Where was everybody when Abre Los Ojos was remade with Tom Cruise? Or when Steven Soderbergh remade Tartovsky’s Solaris, one of the greatest science fiction movies of all time?

    As for the Departed . . . in some ways, it improved on the original concept. The writing in the Departed perfectly, perfectly represents the ethnography of working class Boston, which itself is still a rare subject in American cinema. The script was hilarious. Leonardo Dicaprio’s shell-shocked character better reflects the psychological reality of undercover work among truly dangerous, despicable people. Finally, one of the greatest influences on HK hard-boiled cinema happened to be Martin Scorsese.

    I’m sure Oldboiiiii will suck. If there was to be a remake, it would be made by Haneke or Von trier. Steven Speilburg is completely, completely wrong for the project. Completely. Wrong.

    “And as Shaenna said, why not just play the original? Maybe this is still difficult in America.”

    There’s a limited audience (mostly in urban places) for foreign cinema in America. However, Korean cinema (esp. post-Oldboy) is actually getting a lot of distribution here. (And Korean horror is now bigger than Japanese horro at your local Blockbuster. Hello Kobe!! 😉 )

    Remakes actually improves the visibility of the domestic product, and it creates curiosity. Also, the domestic country (in this case, Korea) usually view it as flattering as well as a way to help promote their work overseas.

    “Here in Europe, people have been watching translated american movies for very long.”

    That’s even true for China/TW/HK audience and Chinese movies. I was used to it until I started watching foreign films in college; now it’s hard to go back. In fact, it was only relatively recent (say the last 30 years) that most non-Western countries were showing domestic and foreign movies where the audio wasn’t overdubbed.

  34. 34 Bobbi

    Well said!

    I hated all the Korean and Japanese film remakes, maybe except The Ring. But everything else SUCKED.

  35. 35 Phalycidee

    Hear, hear! Remakes = Lost in Translation…and no, I’m not referring to the movie. Although I hear it was a rather good movie but never peaked my interest…I digress…I CONCUR JAVABEANS!!

  36. 36 Icia

    I see where you’re coming from belleza… it just all seems so redundant/ superfluous. They made the story into an (often) exceptional film/ drama once, but thats not enough… it has to be adapted and remade for western audience by doing it in english and with hollywood actors.

    Saying that, If you can’t watch the original w/ subtitle, I for one, would much prefer a remake than watching a dubbed vesion of the film… thats a definite no.

  37. 37 belleza

    “Although I hear it was a rather good movie but never peaked my interest”

    Loved the movie . . . and can definitely see how it struck some people as that movie about Bad Americans.

    “it has to be adapted and remade for western audience by doing it in english and with hollywood actors.”

    Yeah, but then I argue that it’s the same everywhere. Did you notice how many Japanese products are remade for the Korean audience? Did anybody see the Korean remake of Sekachu, and how wretched it was? How many people here loved Dal Ja’s Spring but never saw the original and superior Anego? What about Shiroi Kyoto/White Tower? Did anybody ever read about the Japanese backlash over Alone in Love?

    I don’t have a problem with remakes, because essentially most movies are remakes of each other. I do have a problem when Hollywood misrepresents a culture, but I feel the same in all countries (see Asia’s depiction of African Americans.) I feel the stance is hypocritical unless you’re going to call it on both sides.

  38. 38 pat

    Itotally agree with belleza on this one. These adaptations happens everywhere all the time. Everyone needs to chill.

  39. 39 javabeans

    I both agree and disagree with belleza.

    First, the superfluous remakes are always annoying whether they are inter-Asian or not. I think the inter-Asian ones have a general appreciation for the originals that Hollywood doesn’t, however, and many of the key cultural elements show better potential for being preserved.

    And just because they’re common doesn’t mean I have to like ’em or can’t be annoyed when another one comes along. “It’s not new, so don’t complain now” has never been an argument that flies with me.

  40. 40 belleza

    “I think the inter-Asian ones have a general appreciation for the originals that Hollywood doesn’t,”

    I haven’t seen that as the case, actually. For example, I felt the Japanese My Sassy Girl ended up missing the appeal of the original about as much as the American movie. And the Korean version of Sekachu was terrible. Terrible. There are plenty of good remakes, of course, but it varies product to product, as it does in Hollywood.

    I liked shows like Surgeon Bong Dal-Hee and Dal Ja’s Spring, even though it was pretty obvious where the original influences came from. I could say “well, the Korean PDs made it their own, but that’s a tautological statement because even inferior remakes are ‘their own.'” It’s just enough to say that I liked those kind of stories even if it’s done again and again, and liked both shows on their own terms.

    “These adaptations happens everywhere all the time. ”

    This is a frequent point of departure between me and a friend of mine. He’s watched a lot of Japanese horror films, and so when America started remaking them, he was really unhappy about that. But, then, BECAUSE they were being remade, access to more Japanese horror films became easier.

    I do see the point with Oldboy; it would be like remaking Pulp Fiction or Trainspotting. But from another perspective, it’ll also be the first mainstream Hollywood film to dip into “extreme cinema” that wasn’t strictly horror. There’s an inherent problem there too, because Hollywood is still better at treat genre work as that, genre work. The usual attempt to make it critically acceptable is usually a process of “civilizing” or “domesticating” the original work, especially after it gets run through the meat grinder. And Steven Speilberg is especially guilty of that.

  41. 41 b_lizard

    Hollywood always dumbs down movies (I’m talking commercial and not independent here). Oldboy was such a powerful movie, I’m sure it’ll be crap when they’re done with it. You are all right – Will Smith can’t play the main character. And I’m sure the incest stuff will be cleaned up so what’s the point?? Just riding off of Oldboy. Just forget about it and stick to the original. Unfortunately, Americans are too lazy to read subtitles. They need it in “American” (like that’s even a language).

  42. 42 G


    I can’t believe this~ Really- remaking Oldboy? Now, this is also coming from someone who isn’t particularly protective of the movie itself.
    I think you perfectly summed up what I’ve been feeling when I’m hearing about all of these remakes, and it was so great to see it articulated.

    My knee-jerk reaction is irritation that ‘Hollywood’ would remake a movie and not create something new, but I think that also stems from the fact that many of these remakes are assuming that they are giving the original material a grander, better stage–not necessarily the case, as you pointed out. Can’t the biggest companies in the movie industry trust that people will seek out good movies and appreciate them without having them re-jammed down their throats with the shiny new seal of a recognized film production company? I really hope they leave it alone.

  43. 43 Paula

    Oh dear, I really don’t think it would work. Oldboy was just such a powerful movie, I can’t imagine it being redone in Hollywood. Maybe as an Indie flick, but not a mainstream movie. Would they also want to remake Sympathy for Mr Vengeance and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance as well, since they’re part of the Revenge Trilogy? And Oldboy is so well known as well, my brother rented it here (Canada) at a video store, ever since being so well known at Cannes, how could they possibly even think that they could do better? Hollywood just sucks, I so prefer Korean movies to American ones.

  44. 44 Liv

    Im sorta with belleza on this one – its sort of ironic that we are decrying a Hollywood remake of a Korean movie – when the original story was Japanese in the first place. So yes – remakes happen, across the globe. My disagreement is with the following statement:

    “Remakes actually improves the visibility of the domestic product, and it creates curiosity.”

    Only if the original is credited. When the audience is made aware that what they are watching is a remake, the original can often benefit too. I for one have watched both Dal Ja’s and Anego – and had no idea they were related. If I had known, I would’ve watched Anego a lot sooner. Because I didnt know about it , it took me a year to “discover” Anego. And thats the issue with Hollywood remakes of international cinema – very very rarely will the original idea get credited. I watched Departed and I loved it for its innovation and creativity and captivating story. I wish I hadnt just found out it isnt an original story now. If Hollywood gives credit where credit is due, then I will take less offense to this particular remake. It wont remove my dislike completely though – there is just no way Will Smith can do this role any justice.

  45. 45 Sarah

    Okay… Let me get this straight.

    They’re trying to remake Old Boy. With Will Smith. Pardon me, but I can’t really see Will Smith with a daughter, let alone having an incestuous relationship with one. And what about that wonderful scene with the live octopus? I have a feeling that some of the scenes that made the original film so epic aren’t going to translate well in the remake.

  46. 46 belleza

    “Would they also want to remake Sympathy for Mr Vengeance and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance as well, since they’re part of the Revenge Trilogy?”

    America procured rights for Lady Vengeance. It’s purported to be a Charlize Theron vehicle.

    Hollywood aside, it’s usually bad policy to remake an auteur work, which the Vengeance trilogy is a unqualified example. I’m still kinda shocked that Steven Speilberg dare tries something like this. You might as well remake Clockwork Orange with Ben Affleck. Hey now that’s an idea . . .

    “but I think that also stems from the fact that many of these remakes are assuming that they are giving the original material a grander, better stage–”

    Most of the time, it has to do with business. Often, buying the rights for a foreign script is going to cost less than for an equivalent domestic script. In addition, because it is a remake, Hollywood can tap the markets of the original product, which is what’s currently happening with the American MSG.

    Same situation is happening between Korea and them buying Japanese scripts/stories to adapt into TV and movies. Studios do this because it costs much less than buying an equivalent domestic script/story, and there’s already a market/readership for certain Japanese literature both here and there. However, at the same time, this has caused some resentment among some in the Japanese audience when their favorite manga/novel/TV series is “watered down” into a Korean weepie or rom-com. It happens everywhere.

    “Only if the original is credited. When the audience is made aware that what they are watching is a remake, the original can often benefit too.”

    Yeah, I felt the same about Anego and Dal Ja Spring. I was more happy that K-drama was finally doing shows more similar to the Office Lady genre of J-drama. I still kinda feel if K-drama starts producing true OL dramas, they would be a sensation. Imagine a K-drama version of Haken no Hinkaku starring Kim Sun Ah. It would be truly something.

  47. 47 Amy

    “Why do you seem to think that nothing is complete until you have co-opted it for your own commercial gain?”

    I…almost hate to say this after one of our ~biggest~ good examples of ~democracy~ from Election Day, but this is almost like what America does with everything, not just Hollywood.

  48. 48 belleza

    “but this is almost like what America does with everything, not just Hollywood.”

    Yup. Welcome to the globalization argument of the 1990s! No country will be left behind without a McDonalds and a Starbucks! 😀

  49. 49 Amy

    “No country will be left behind without a McDonalds and a Starbucks!”

    I think fast food is a rather tame example of this; I was gearing more towards politics and our need to spread democracy everywhere (or under the guise of spreading democracy anyway…).

  50. 50 belleza

    “I was gearing more towards politics and our need to spread democracy everywhere ”

    Sure, but the end result is that America wants to export their capitalism to the rest of the world. Neo-con think: “Capitalism=peace” So it does come down to McDonalds and Starbucks at every corner, replacing the local culture with the American Brand and sucking up their capital. God bless the American Way.

    Hallyu is starting to work in a similar way, but I consume Hallyu product, so I don’t want to call the kettle black. The marketing and self-centered branding gets obnoxious even to me, but it’s kinda fascinating at the same time, because it’s worked so well. Someday I could really see aspects of Chinese history reinterpreted by Korea and resold to the mainland. Heh.

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