Bale is eying the villain role in Lee's Americanized take on Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook's cult-classic (itself, an adaptation of a Japanese comic book). The lead role in the picture, however, has now officially been filled.
Deadline has learned that Academy Award-nominee Josh Brolin has signed on to headline Oldboy, which was finally rescued from development limbo when Lee signed on earlier this summer. Brolin will soon be working on Ruben Flesicher's Gangster Squad; Oldboy looks to be the next project on his to-do list.
Chan-wook's Oldboy told the macabre tale of Oh Dae-Su (played by Choi Min-sik), a man who is kidnapped on his daughter's birthday and held prisoner in a single hotel room for fifteen years, not knowing who his captors are or why they are tormenting him. Dae-su spends those years training his body, so that upon his release, he is a killing machine able to track down and take bloody revenge on those who ruined his life. However, the man behind Dae-Su's imprisonment (Yu Ji-tae) isn't done tormenting his opponent just yet - and has an even more disturbing fate in mind for his victim.
Here is a preliminary plot synopsis for Lee's Oldboy (via Coming Soon):
Brolin, who next appears on the big screen in Men in Black III, will play the part of Joe (Dae-su Oh in the original), a man who, on the day his daughter is born, is captured and imprisoned in a hotel room for over two decades (15 years in the original) with no understanding as to why. When he is suddenly released, he's told that he has just four days to determine the reason for his imprisonment and, if he cannot, his daughter will be killed.
Brolin is an overall great actor, but if there's one thing he handles especially well, it's a dark and gritty role - be it the survival-minded Llewelyn Moss in No Country for Old Men, the corrupt Detective Trupo in American Gangster, or even Jonah Hex in the otherwise terrible... Jonah Hex. So while his involvement won't be enough to get most people to get behind the Oldboy remake just yet, it certainly won't hurt.
On that note: Lee's Oldboy is part remake, but also something more original. Screenwriter Mark Protosevich (I Am Legend, Thor) is borrowing elements from Chan-wook's adaptation for his script, but will also include elements of the original Oldboy comic book, and is said to be adding a healthy chunk (20%) of brand-new narrative material to the mix as well. So while this is a remake, it's a different kind of remake than, say, last year's Let Me In or even another recent vampire movie remake, Fright Night.
If Lee manages to also get Bale (or someone of similar caliber) onboard as the villain in Oldboy, then it'll be all the more reason for even the most furious detractors to reconsider their opinion.
Lee is one of those autuers who seems to inspire love-hate reactions from moviegoers - usually due to the content, rather than quality, of his films. He's an undeniably talented artist who's delivered some truly memorable titles (Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, etc.) that touch on hot-rod issues like racism and class warfare in a head-on manner, so it's no wonder him signing on for an already-controversial project like Oldboy didn't go over all that well initially.
Oldboy will likely resemble Lee's 25th Hour - in terms of tone, content, and style - more than any of his other pictures. Considering how well-received that character-driven drama was (even by a good portion of the normally anti-Lee crowd), it's possible that Oldboy could be one of Lee's more mainstream successes. We shall see.
We will keep you updated on the status of Oldboy as more information is released.