The American Oldboy (with the tweaked title Old Boy) is inching closer to reality, now that FilmDistrict has signed up to distribute director Spike Lee's latest "joint" domestically.
Lee is producing Old Boy through his 40 Acres & A Mule banner, alongside Vertigo Entertainment heads Roy Lee and Doug Davison (The Grudge, The Departed) as well as Good Universe's Nathan Kahane (Juno, 50/50). Other personnel include FilmDistrict's CEO Peter Schlessel and John P. Middleton as executive producers - with screenwriter Mark Protosevich (The Cell, I Am Legend, Thor) also onboard as a co-producer.
A Hollywood take on Oldboy has long been the source of irritation for fans of Chan-wook Park's cult classic film (based on the manga), despite the prestigious collection of directors shortlisted for the project at one time or another. A version with Steven Spielberg directing and Will Smith starring teetered on the edge of coming together, but fell apart before pre-production got fully underway; such directors as Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) and Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) were considered thereafter. Spike Lee landed the job last year - and since then, the cast has coalesced at a steady(ish) pace.
Here is an official synopsis for the film:
OLDBOY follows the story of an advertising executive (Josh Brolin) who is kidnapped and held hostage for 20 years in solitary confinement without any indication of his captor’s motive. When he is inexplicably released, he embarks on an obsessive mission to discover who orchestrated his bizarre and torturous punishment only to find he is still trapped in a web of conspiracy and torment. His quest for revenge leads him into an ill-fated relationship with a young social worker (Elizabeth Olsen) and ultimately to an illusive man (Sharlto Copley) who allegedly holds the key to his salvation.
Previous Spike Lee collaborators Samuel L. Jackson and Nate Parker are inking deals to round out the supporting cast - though, there are still several additional minor roles to fill before production gets underway next month.
Old Boy gets its title from the original comic book; the script by Protosevich also incorporates certain elements from the source material that were absent in Park's adaptation, while adding brand-new material (like a "darker" conclusion) that is meant to better re-contextualize the story for an American setting. Once Spike Lee puts his artistic spin on some of the more iconic moments from Park's film, the two Oldboy adaptations should bear even less of a surface resemblance.
However, one matter that raises concern is Old Boy's apparent difficulty in securing an actor and actress for the villain and female lead. Oscar-nominees Rooney Mara and Clive Owen, as well as Oscar-winner Colin Firth, all passed for one reason or another - whether it was due to scheduling conflicts, other priorities, or issues with the script, is the question.
We will let you know when Old Boy secures an official release date.