Everyone knows Godzilla was a superstar in Japan long before he went Hollywood and started stomping American landmarks into matchsticks. Despite making his debut in 1954 The King of the Monsters had to wait until 1998’s Roland Emmerich film Godzilla to be to be fully reimagined by an American studio.
So you knew of Godzilla’s roots, but did you also know The Magnificent Seven and A Fistful of Dollars were remakes of Asian films?
Add to that list this weekend’s Oldboy, a Spike Lee re-creation of a violent Chan-wook Park film. Josh Brolin plays a man searching for answers as to why he was kidnapped and held in solitary confinement for twenty years.
Spike Lee says the original director only offered up one piece of advice. “Josh went to Park and asked for his blessing,” he told MTV. “Park gave it, and the one thing he said to Josh — which Josh related to me — was ‘make a different film; don’t do the same thing I did.’ [So] that’s the way we did it.”
Hollywood has looked to Asia for inspiration for years.
Akira Kurosawa’s films provided fodder for two redone classics. The epic Seven Samarai became the Wild West gunfighter flick The Magnificent Seven and the director’s Yojimbo provided the backbone for A Fistful of Dollars, starring Clint Eastwood.
Once again old west gunfighters subbed for samurai but the premise of one man playing rivals off one another remains. Since the movie was an unofficial remake Kurosawa sued, won and later bragged he made more money off of Fistful of Dollars than Yojimbo.
At the turn of the millennium Japanese movies like Ringu, Ju-on and Geoul Sokeuro helped reinvent Hollywood horror. The best known of the Asian horror remakes was The Ring, an unlikely story of a cursed videotape that caused the viewer to die within a week of watching it. Roger Ebert called the movie boring and “borderline ridiculous” but it was a huge hit and paved the way for others like The Grudge and Dark Water.
Hollywood has often looked to Asia for inspiration, but sometimes it has worked the other way round.
Saidoweizu is a Japanese version of the wine soaked romantic dramedy Sideways, director Toshikazu Nagae put his own spin on Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night and A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop transports Blood Simple’s action from 1980s Texas to 19th century China.