Two Brothers Remake A TALE OF TWO SISTERS
US Version of the Korean Horror Hit Coming in 2008
Author: Keith Aiken and Kim Song-ho (Loomis)
Source: DreamWorks/Paramount, Tartan Films USA
TALE OF TWO SISTERS revolves around Anna (Emily Browning), who returns home after spending time in the hospital following the tragic death of her mother. Her recovery suffers a setback when she discovers her father (David Strathairn) has become engaged to her mother’s former nurse (Elizabeth Banks). That night, Anna is visited by her mother’s ghost, who warns of Rachel’s intention. Together, Anna and her sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel) try to convince their father that his current fiancee is not who she pretends to be, and what should have been a happy family reunion becomes a lethal battle of wills between stepdaughters and stepmother.
-Synopsis from the DreamWorks/Paramount presskit.
The trend of remaking popular Asian horror movies continues with DreamWorks’ TALE OF TWO SISTERS, based on the acclaimed 2003 Korean psychological chiller.
The original A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (Janghwa, Hongryeon) was the third feature film from writer/director Kim Ji-woon. Kim debuted in 1998 with the horror comedy THE QUIET FAMILY (Choyonghan kajok). Starring Song Kang-ho of THE HOST fame, THE QUIET FAMILY was the story of a family who turn to murder to keep their unsuccessful mountain inn in business. The film was remade by Japanese cult director Takashi Miike as the musical THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS (Katakuri-ke no Kofuku, 2001).
Kim and Song Kang-ho reunited for THE FOUL KING (Banchikwang, 2000), with Song playing a timid bank clerk who becomes a professional masked wrestler. The film was a box office smash in Korea and a favorite at international festivals. Now established as one of Korea’s top filmmakers, Kim next directed the short “Memories”, a chapter in the horror anthology THREE (Saam Gaang, a.k.a. THREE… EXTREMES II, 2002) before making A TALE OF TWO SISTERS.
Kim based A TALE OF TWO SISTERS on “Janghwa Hongryeon-jon”, a Korean folktale about the sisters Janghwa (Rose Flower) and Hongryeon (Red Lotus). In the film, the siblings are called Soo-mi and Soo-yeon, names meaning “Rose” and “Lotus”. Produced by Bom Film Production Co., Ltd. and Masulpiri, and distributed by Chungeorahm Film, A TALE OF TWO SISTERS became an instant hit at the domestic box office upon its release on June 13, 2003. The film racked up some 3.11 million admissions and is said to have sparked the recent boom of Korean horror cinema. It was also a critical success, winning numerous awards such as the 2003 Blue Dragon Award (Lim Su-jeong, best new actress), 2004 Silver Raven award of the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film (Yeom Jeong-ah, best actress), Most Popular Film at the 2004 FantAsia Film Festival and 2003 Sitges-Catalonian International Film Festival (best film).
In Korea, this film is particularly remembered for the impressive acting by Yeom Jeong-ah, who played the sisters’ stepmother. She stole the show with an oppressive, hysteric character which she played to perfection. Yeom was a celebrity even before the release of A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, but her performance in this film brought her new recognition as a talented actress. Lim Su-jeong and Moon Keun-young also came to fame for their roles as the sisters Soo-mi and Soo-yeon.
In 2004, Tartan USA launched their “Asian Extreme” line with a limited theatrical run for A TALE OF TWO SISTERS. The film opened in Los Angeles and New York on December 17 of that year, and expanded to other cities in 2005. Tartan also released the film on DVD with a 2-disc set including more than 2 hours of bonus features.
As A TALE OF TWO SISTERS was playing in US theaters, directors Tom and Charlie Guard acquired the English language remake rights. The Guard Brothers studied at Cambridge before launching careers as commercial and short film directors for such clients as Nokia, Euro Disney, PlayStation 2, and X Box. The Korean remake is their first feature film.
In June 2006, DreamWorks announced that a deal had been set up for the US version, TALE OF TWO SISTERS (advance press materials drop the “A” from the English title). The new movie is a presentation of DreamWorks and Cold Spring Pictures (DISTURBIA), and is produced by Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald (THE RING, THE RING 2) and Roy Lee (nearly every Asian movie remake in recent memory). The screenplay was written by Craig Rosenberg (AFTER THE SUNSET, LOST), Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard (THE GREAT RAID).
TALE OF TWO SISTERS stars Emily Browning as Anna. The actress has previously appeared in the horror films GHOST SHIP (2002), DARKNESS FALLS (2003), and the Jim Carrey movie LEMONY SNICKET’S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS (2004). Anna’s sister Alex is played by Arielle Kebbel, who was recently seen in THE GRUDGE 2 (2006), JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE (2006) and HBO’s ENTOURAGE. Character actor David Strathairn (LA CONFIDENTIAL, THE SOPRANOS, THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM) plays the girls’ father, and the role of the stepmother Rachel is performed by Elizabeth Banks. Banks plays Betty Brant in the Spider-Man films and has also appeared in THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN (2005), SLITHER (2005), and FRED CLAUS (2007).
TALE OF TWO SISTERS is currently in post-production. The film is scheduled for release in 2008, exact date to be announced.