Ring remake

Stephen Cremin asianfilmlibrary
Sat Oct 19 01:10:17 EDT 2002

 From talking to invariably frustrated Korean and Japanese buyers, I get 
the impression that Western sales agents aren't really tuned in to what 
sells in Asia.  I'm probably looking at things too simplistically, but 
there seems to be patterns such as the "beautiful boy" factor which 
must triple the value of Japanese sales.  But Western films tend to hit 
these buttons more by accident than design.  And with, say, a Hong Kong 
film with Japanese locations and stars, the producer is more often 
trying to bring a fashionable Japanese flavour to the film to boost the 
domestic box office.  Japanese distribution is a secondary concern.

Columbia Tristar has gone to the other extreme.  Funding Asian movies 
whose primary target is the local audience, but with international 
distribution down the line.  They're still trying to find the winning 
formula, and other companies are following in their steps.  Columbia 
have been largely hands off artistically, giving directors free reign 
outside casting and script approval.  But casting has been the major 
weakness of these films to date; in particular the token foreign 
actors.  But these are presumably teething problems and next year's 
crop looks more hopeful.

There's been several articles profiling Roy Lee recently: Variety, 
Screen International, Los Angeles Times ... even Kentucky Fried Cinema 
website.  He doesn't understand any Asian languages.  Seems very much 
the right guy at the right time with the right Hollywood connections.  
Apparently, he gets a lot of hate mail from Asian film fans.


On Sunday, October 20, 2002, at 01:38 AM, jeffrey isaacs wrote:

>  From: jeffrey isaacs <jdi1 at midway.uchicago.edu>
Date: Sun Oct 20, 2002  1:38:39 AM Etc/GMT
To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
Subject: Ring remake
Reply-To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu

Just heard a very good 5 minute story put together by Beth Accomando 
for PRI's The World radio program on the release of Ring remake which 
attributes Ring and a dozen other Asian film remakes (that many?) to 
producer Roy Lee. Did anyone catch the piece on the radio? Can anyone 
tell more about Roy Lee?

The PRI story claimed that Asian films are perfect for remake by 
Hollywood because they are in familiar genres and because studio execs 
get to look at "fully realized product" before having to decide if it'd 
'work' - meaning, I gather, if it would work for American audiences. 
The story goes on to discuss the changes made to adapt Ring for 

One of the producers for Ring remake described the Japanese original as 
ambiguous, vague, having clues that don't match up. The makers of the 
new version have apparently fixed that problem and have "turned an 
inexplicable horror into a detective story." I only watched the 
Japanese film once (Ring gekijyo kanzenban, I think it was) but it 
seemed to me to be tightly organized and to adhere to Hollywood's rules 
for narrative clarity.  It was certainly no more confounding than an 
episode of X-files - with which it seems to share an aesthetic of 
perpetually postponed resolution and, of course, both are set up as 
serials - which, I gather, Ring remake is not. Interestingly, the 
director of Ring remake, Gore Verbinski, said he tried to give the 
"false feeling" that the narrative moves forward. Doesn't it?

The radio story ended with a comment on the reaction of a Japanese film 
industry representative who supposedly described the Hollywood remake 
as "very good, very scary, very American." I interpret the very 
American comment as a good indication that Ring remake will not be very 
well received in Japan - not because Japanese audiences don't like 
American films, clearly they do.

People on this list have commented on the strategic use of recognizable 
actors from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea in Japanese film and vice-versa 
to make films appeal to audiences in more than one country.

In listening to the story, it occurred to me that despite the fact that 
everyone knows that audiences outside of the US contribute a lot 
towards the earnings of US-made films, those people actually making the 
films in Hollywood don't seem to give sufficient weight to 
international audiences when they are planning their films. Maybe it is 
only Asian audiences that are under recognized?

For those of you who know the nuts and bolts of how Hollywood films are 
planned and made, I ask, could this possibly be true? Doesn't some 
financial forecaster chime in with, "make it resemble the Japanese 
original in tone a little more and you can count on $15mil extra from 
Japanese rentals"? Maybe this is a secret known only to the agents for 
Jean Reno and Steven Segal? Or, is the potential profit too 
insignificant to make it worth raising in a Hollywood pre-production 

You can listen to the PRI story at http://www.theworld.org (October 18 
show) - but it appears that PRI's The World shows are available on-line 
for only a week.

Jeff Isaacs

Ph.D. student, University of Chicago
Instructor, Yokohama City University

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