US Remake of THE HOST Finally Moving Forward
After Two Years, Producers, Director, and Screenwriter Named for English Language Adaptation
Source: Variety, Korean news sources, various
Special Thanks to Kim Song-ho (Loomis)
By 2004, South Korean movie director Bong Joon-ho had achieved the critical and commercial success most filmmakers struggle their whole career for. His second film, the crime drama MEMORIES OF MURDER (Salinui Chueok, 2003), topped the Korean box office in 2003 and won Best Movie, Best Director, and Best Actor at that year’s Grand Bell Awards, the Korean equivalent of the Academy Awards. But when he announced his next project would be a monster movie called THE HOST (Gwoemul) the reaction was decidedly mixed.
Monsters had never been a popular genre in Korea. Prior to THE HOST, only a handful of films such as YONGARY, MONSTER FROM THE DEEP (Daekoesu Yonggary, 1967), A*P*E (King Kongui Daeyeokseub, 1976), and Shim Hyung-rae’s YONGGARY (a.k.a. REPTILIAN, 1999), had been produced in Korea. “There are a whole lot of prejudices about creature movies, that they are just childish or just sci-fi,” Bong said. “And when they heard I was making THE HOST, people I knew were even more worried. ‘Why do you need to make a film about creatures, do you want to leave a stain on your career?’ I heard a lot of things like that, and people were really prejudiced against it. But I think those preconceptions ended up stimulating me even more.”
In 2006, Bong definitely proved the skeptics wrong as THE HOST became the highest grossing movie in Korean history. The film also won numerous awards, including “Best Picture” at the Blue Dragon Awards, the Baek Sang Art Awards, the Asian Film Awards, and the Korean Film Awards. THE HOST even caught on with international audiences; it a major hit at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival and AFI Fest, and was named one of the “Must See” movies of 2006 by the American magazine Premiere. It was quickly picked up for distribution in more than 30 countries, including the United States.
But months before THE HOST was given a limited US theatrical release by Magnolia Pictures, Universal Pictures had already acquired American remake rights for the film. At a screening of THE HOST at the Hollywood AFI Fest in November 2006, Bong Joon-ho told attendees he was interested in seeing how Universal adapted the property for English-speaking audiences.
Much to the displeasure of many Asian film fans, for the past several years American studios have been remaking popular movies from Japan, Korea, and China. While these adaptations have been hit-and-miss both financially and critically, the success of pictures like DreamWorks’ THE RING (2002)— which brought in $249 million worldwide— or Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning THE DEPARTED (2006)— based on the HK thriller INFERNAL AFFAIRS— make these films a worthwhile investment for US studios. The studios are also well aware that American audiences generally do not turn out to see subtitled or foreign films. In 2004, the Japanese horror film JU-ON got a theatrical release in America and made less than $326,000 while that same year the US remake THE GRUDGE made $110 million at the domestic box office and an additional $77 million overseas. Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s excellent J-horror movie PULSE (Kairo, 2001) took in $51,000 at US theaters; the absolutely awful American remake was a box office failure but still earned $20 million.
The US release of THE HOST made slightly over $2 million at the box office, which suggests there’s a large untapped audience for Universal Pictures to target. The only surprise is that more than two years have passed since the studio first announced their plans to remake the film.
This week, Variety and Korean news reports have revealed that Gore Verbinski will produce THE HOST for Universal Pictures. Verbinski had previously directed the remake of THE RING before moving on to helm the blockbuster PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN trilogy for Disney. He recently set up his own production company, Blind Wink Productions, at Universal and will next direct a film adaptation of the hit video game BIOSHOCK as well as the animated movie RANGO starring Johnny Depp.
Verbinski will co-produce THE HOST with Roy Lee and Doug Davison of Vertigo Entertainment. Lee and Davison have been behind nearly every recent Asian film remake; a partial list includes the US films THE RING, THE GRUDGE (2004), DARK WATER (2005), THE LAKE HOUSE (2006), THE DEPARTED, THE EYE (2008), and SHUTTER (2008), plus the recent QUARANTINE (2008, a remake of the Spanish cult hit REC). Also attached is Paul Brooks, producer of MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING (2002) and WHITE NOISE (2005).
Making his feature film debut will be director Fredrik Bond. Bond has a background directing commercials and music videos. His resume includes ad campaigns for Nike, Levi’s 501, New Balance, Absolut vodka, and Axe Body Spray, as well as the video for Moby’s “Bodyrock (Auditions)”. Bond and Verbinski— who also started off directing commercials such as the famous Budweiser frogs spots— have been looking forward to doing a project together.
With the original THE HOST, Bong Joon-ho mixed the traditonal qualities of monster movies with current social issues, family drama, and some touches of dark comedy. Fredrik Bond told Variety it was that mix of styles and tone that drew him to doing the remake. “It processes a few genres together”, Bond said, “and visually it feels close to the stuff I’ve made over the last few years in commercials, the tonality of humor and the scale.”
Mark Poirier has been hired to write the screenplay for THE HOST. His credits include the 2008 romantic dramedy SMART PEOPLE starring Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Thomas Haden Church, and the upcoming HATESHIP, FRIENDSHIP, COURTSHIP.
On the Korean front things have been quiet recently. Chungeorahm Film— the Korean company that produced THE HOST— has not yet made an official statement regarding the US remake. There have also been no updates regarding Chungeorahm’s previously announced sequel THE HOST 2 or their plans for a separate Chinese sequel to the original film.
For more information on THE HOST and THE HOST 2, please see the previous coverage here on SciFi Japan:
- AFM /AFI FEST REPORT #4: THE HOST
- THE HOST Press Notes and Director’s Interview
- THE HOST (Gwoemul, 2006) US Trailers
- THE HOST: An Interview with Animation Supervisor Webster Colcord
- THE HOST Comes to Region 1 DVD
- Cover Art and Press Release for THE HOST DVDs
- Sequel Planned for THE HOST
- THE HOST 2 Update
- THE HOST 2 News
- THE HOST 2— CHINESE VERSION