Has the much-maligned Will Smith-starring, Steven Spielberg-produced "remake" of Old Boy bitten the dust? According to Latino Review, that just may be the case. Their sources are telling them that in the rights-securing process, the original Korean production company, Mandate could not come to any kind of agreement with Dreamworks, prompting the latter party to simply walk away from the deal altogether.
As some may remember, it was around this time a year ago that rumors began to surface about a collaboration between Will Smith and Steven Spielberg to westernize the Old Boy mythos. Based on Japanese manga from Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi, South Korean director Chan-wook Park would adopt the story into a highly stylish 2003 film, Oldboy (no space), that remains a huge cult favorite to this day.
The story depicted a man seeking revenge after being inexplicably kidnapped and imprisoned in a sleazy hotel room for some 15 years, where he is sadistically kept alive and prevented from committing suicide. After his release, his quest for revenge for not only his imprisonment, but the death of his wife, leads him through a series of events that culminate in what may be one of the ultimate cinematic "twists" of all time. (In fact, M. Night Shyamalan might end up wanting this one.)
The original intent of Smith and Spielberg was not to simply remake the Park film, but rather, to go back to the source material itself. It was speculated that they would create something that may have been more accessible to American audiences. Exactly what a collaboration of Will Smith and Steven Spielberg could do with a dark, violent story filled with bodily maming, and incest, is something we will probably never know. (Although our very own Stephen Johnson has suggested that Tom Hanks may get a hold of the project. Frankly, my money's on TV's Patrick Duffy.)
The fact remains that, despite being a great fan favorite and big-time summer movie fodder, Will Smith would have had some heavy duty issues to tackle if he were to take on this role. He can really only pull off being a "semi-serious" action hero. Even in the Omega Man-inspired I Am Legend, which depicted a post apocalyptic world where Smith is living life alone amongst a city full of zombies, he still comes off somewhat as a clown. Old Boy, while lacking zombies and the end of the world, is some pretty serious stuff. Westernize it too much, or fill it with "zany one-liners," and it would have been doomed. Besides, the average moviegoer may not be thrilled about exactly WHO Will Smith's character would have been "getting jiggy with." Consider the failure of the negotiations as a blessing in disguise.
It therefore seems that über-leet cult Asian Cinema addicts may be sleeping a little easier knowing that this sacred cow is safe -- for now, anwyay. (There's always the possibility of an Uwe Boll version, right?)