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Home / Career / Film Productions
Oldboy
011.jpg Original Release: November 27, 2013
Genre: Action | Drama | Mystery
Running time: 104 minutes
Directed by: Spike Lee
Screenplay by: Mark Protosevich
Produced by: Roy Lee, Doug Davison, Nathan Kahane
Distributed by: FilmDistrict
Budget: $30 million
Box Office
: $4.8 million

An advertising executive is kidnapped and held hostage for 20 years in solitary confinement. When he is inexplicably released, he embarks on an obsessive mission to discover who orchestrated his punishment, only to find he is still trapped in a web of conspiracy and torment.

Cast & Characters

Josh Brolin (Joe Doucett), Grey Damon (Young Joe Doucett), Elizabeth Olsen (Mia Doucett / Marie Sebastian), Sharlto Copley (Adrian Doyle Pryce / The Stranger), Erik Gersovitz (Young Adrian Pryce, Samuel L. Jackson (Chaney), Michael Imperioli (Chucky), Brett Lapeyrouse (Young Chucky), James Ransone (Dr. Tom Melby), Max Casella (James Prestley), Linda Emond (Edwina Burke), Pom Klementieff (Haeng-Bok), Elvis Nolasco (Cortez), Lance Reddick (Daniel Newcombe), Hannah Ware (Donna Hawthorne), Richard Portnow (Bernie Sharkey), Hannah Simone (Stephanie Lee), Lizzy DeClement (Amanda Pryce), Caitlin Dulany (Emma Pryce), Cinqué Lee (Bellhop), Rami Malek (Browning), Ciera Payton (Capri).


Production Photos

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Production Notes

An American remake of Oldboy previously had director Justin Lin attached. In November 2008, DreamWorks and Universal were securing the rights to the remake, which Will Smith had expressed interest in starring, with Steven Spielberg as director. Mark Protosevich was in talks to write the script, although the acquisition to the remake rights were not finalized. Smith later clarified that Spielberg would not be remaking the film: he would be adapting the manga itself, which is considerably different from the film. In June 2009, the comic’s publisher launched a lawsuit against the Korean film’s producers for giving the film rights to Spielberg without their permission. Later in November 2009, it was reported that DreamWorks, Spielberg and Smith had stepped back from the project. The producing team announced on 10 November 2009 that the project was dead.

On July 11, 2011, Mandate Pictures sent a press release stating that Spike Lee would direct a remake of the South Korean film (ignoring the earlier version’s adaptation of the manga) with a screenplay written by Protosevich. Josh Brolin was cast to star in the remake as the lead character, while Christian Bale was reportedly in talks to portray the antagonist character, but it was later reported that Colin Firth had been offered the role. Firth later passed on the role, which was later offered to Clive Owen. In May 2012, Deadline reported that Sharlto Copley had officially been cast as the villain Adrian Pryce. Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson and Nate Parker were all later announced to have joined the cast. Parker was later replaced by James Ransone, due to a scheduling conflict. The film marked Jackson’s first time working with director Lee since 1991’s Jungle Fever.

Principal photography began in October 2012.

Spike Lee’s version was 140 minutes long, but the producers heavily re-edited the film to 105 minutes (re-edits by producers also included the “one-shot hammer” scene); Lee and Josh Brolin were unhappy with it. Lee even removed his trademark “A Spike Lee Joint” credit for a more impersonal “A Spike Lee Film” during the editing process. Brolin has also said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that he prefers Lee’s version of the film, though it is not clear if this cut will ever be released.

Trivia

  • Elizabeth Olsen did not know the ending of the film until she watched it for the first time at the New York City premiere. “I’ve never been more shocked and surprised by an ending since maybe like The Sixth Sense (1999),” Olsen said. “No one spoiled it for me. No one hinted at it for me. And I got to experience it with just a blank canvas.”
  • The hallway fight scene was done in one take, but it was edited for the final cut.
  • At one point, Joe (Josh Brolin) looks at an octopus swimming in a tank at a restaurant and walks away, a nod to the infamous octopus scene from Oldboy (2003).
  • The yellow umbrella that the girl (Haeng-Bok) carries features four five-bar gates, signifying the twenty years that Joe was imprisoned.
  • Elizabeth Olsen’s character has an octopus tattoo on her right arm, another nod to the infamous octopus scene in Oldboy (2003).
  • Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, and Pom Klementieff have all appeared in various movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • This movie is the second live-action adaptation of the Japanese manga, after Oldboy (2003).
  • Elizabeth Olsen discussed her attitude about nudity and the sex scene with Josh Brolin in a 2013 interview. She said she has no problem being nude on camera because she only chooses to disrobe for roles which make her feel empowered. However, Olsen insists there is never anything sexy about the scenes she gets naked for. She told the New York Daily News, “I truly believe in the films I’ve chosen to be nude (in). It helps tell a more grotesque story. There’s nothing gratuitous about it, and it creates the opposite of pleasure. I find it empowering.” Olsen recently told WENN she really felt for her Oldboy co-star Brolin during their sex scenes, because she is just five years older than his daughter, Eden. She said, “It was probably weirder for him than for me because he has a daughter my age, so I’m sure that was weird for both of them.”

Release & Reception

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 40% based on 149 reviews, with an average rating of 5.1/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “Suitably grim and bloody yet disappointingly safe and shallow, Spike Lee’s Oldboy remake neither surpasses the original nor adds anything new to its impressive legacy.” On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 49 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews”.

Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com gives three of four stars, saying: “Because the Internet moves with the speed and ferocity of a hornet swarm, there’s a chance that by the time you read this, Spike Lee’s American remake of Oldboy will already have been stung to death. If so, too bad. This American version of Park Chan-Wook’s Korean thriller is Lee’s most exciting movie since Inside Man—not a masterpiece by any stretch, but a lively commercial genre picture with a hypnotic, obsessive quality, and an utter indifference to being liked, much less approved of.”

Justin Chang of Variety said that “Lee and Protosevich have made a picture that, although several shades edgier than the average Hollywood thriller, feels content to shadow its predecessor’s every move while falling short of its unhinged, balls-out delirium.” Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune, in a one and a half star review noted that “The revenge in Oldboy is neither sweet nor sour; it’s just drab”.

Eric Kohn, in a largely positive review at Indiewire said: “It’s been so long since Lee made such a thoroughly amusing work that fans should have no problem excusing its messiness. But make no mistake… Oldboy is all over the place, sometimes playing like a subdued melodrama and elsewhere erupting into flamboyance and gore.”

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