Posted on 24 August 2011 by Rich Drees
Sixty-nine film projects that Japanese grandmaster filmmaker Akira Kurosawa either wrote and/or directed have had their remake writes made available. Splendent media has signed a deal to shop the worldwide rights (excluding Japan) to the properties with rights holder Akira Kurosawa 100 Project. The LA-based company may also consider producing a few projects on their own.
The available titles include 26 films directed by Kurosawa, 24 screenplays he wrote but did not direct and an additional 19 scripts written but never put into production. The deal does not include four Kurosawa-based projects who rights have already been purchased and have projects currently in development. Those four films are the Weinstein Co.’s remake of Seven Samurai, as well as remakes of High And Low, Drunken Angel and Ikiru at other studios.
Sakiko Yamada, principal of Splendent Media, announced the deal Monday with Hideyoshi Kato, execution committee president of Akira Kurosawa 100 Project-
We are thrilled and deeply honored to have been entrusted to represent this spectacular treasure trove of films and screenplays, and to help contemporary filmmakers introduce a new generation of moviegoers to these unforgettable stories.
On the surface, this sounds like a cynical cash grab off the great director’s legacy. After all, it could be argued that the reason these stories are so unforgettable is due to the artistry of Kurosawa himself, something that a majority of directors could never hope to be close to equal too.
But let’s not commit sepukko so quickly over this. Remember that the western classic The Magnificent Seven is a direct remake of Kurosawa’s equally classic Seven Samurai. And for two of his own samurai epics Kurosawa himself transformed Shakespeare’s King Lear and Macbeth into Ran and Throne Of Blood.
And while odds are we won’t get something as interesting as Kurosawa’s original films, I wouldn’t put it entirely out of the realm of possibility. But then again, I’m not holding my breath either.
Posted on 08 November 2008 by Rich Drees
Recently, we’ve reported on two film remakes – Martin Scorsese, Mike Nichols and David Mamet working on an English language version of Akira Jurosawa’s High And Low and screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski penning an update of the 1956 classic Forbidden Planet – that actually sound like promising projects.
Thankfully, Hollywood has decided to renew my assertation that nearly all films that try to remake a classic or foreign language film are fool’s errands with the announcement that Steven Spielberg and Will Smith are currently in discussions to direct and star, respectively, in a remake of Korean filmmaker Chan Wook-Park’s phenomenal 2003 film Oldboy. According to a story in Variety, the pair are in early talks to take on the project.
Oldboy is the middle film of Wook-Park’s thematic “Vengeance Trilogy,” which examines the effects that revenge can have on a person. The film tells the story of a man abducted off the street and held prisoner in a small cell for 15 years, never given any explanation for his incarceration. Then, as suddenly and inexplicably as it began, he is set free. Stumbling back into a now unfamiliar world, he sets out to find how did this to him and why. Smith would play the incarcerated man in this new version.
I have to really wonder of Spielberg and Smith have actually bothered the film before they decided to undertake this. Without giving anything away about the twist and turns the film’s plot takes, it is definitely much darker material than either of them have ever attempted before. And one of the finale’s revelations goes to such a dark, scuzzy place that I don’t see a Hollywood movie attempting to follow. While Smith’s Hancock did have a dark streak to it, the shooting script they used had been considerably softened from its original form by Smith’s go-to script re-writer Akiva Goldsman. While Spielberg has not yet hired a writer for the project, I wouldn’t be surprised if Goldsman winds up in the mix. Which would certainly not bode well.
Last March, one of the other films in Wook-Park’s trilogy, Sympathy For Lady Vengeance, has been optioned for an English language redo by Charlize Theron.
Posted on 29 October 2008 by Rich Drees
Akira Kurosawa’s detective drama High And Low is being set up for an English language version with Mike Nichol’s in the director’s chair, David Mamet on screenplay duties and Martin Scorsese serving as executive producer. Scorsese had originally started work on a remake of the film in 1999, but was stymied from moving forward for years due to rights issues.
Kurosawa’s 1963 film was based on Evan Hunter’s 1959 detective novel King’s Ransom. In it, a business executive, longtime Kurosawa collaborator Toshiro Mifune, prepares to be a large ransom for his kidnapped son only to discover that it was actually his chauffeur’s son who was abducted. He is left with the moral dilemma of using the money to save his employee’s son or for its original purpose of a crucial corporate buyout.
While most remakes and English-language adaptations of foreign films have that “Let’s make a quick buck” stink to them, no such whiff seems to emanate from this project. Scorsese has previously adapted another foreign language film, turning Andrew Lau’s Infernal Affairs into The Departed and in the process managed to preserve the essence of of the original. I think that lightening can strike twice in this case.