Josh Brolin Talks OLDBOY Remake and Jason Reitman’s LABOR DAY; Says They Shot Long Improvised Takes for OLDBOY Motel Scenes

by     Posted 2 years, 3 days ago

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When it was first announced that an American remake of director Park Chan-wook’s South Korean revenge film Oldboy was in the works, fans were understandably wary of the prospect.  Then Spike Lee signed on to direct.  If anything can be assumed of a Spike Lee film, it’s that it’s definitely not going to be a commercial cash-in.  Lee cares deeply about artistic integrity, so it’s with cautious optimism that his remake of Oldboy is being anticipated.

Steve sat down with star Josh Brolin last weekend to talk about his upcoming crime drama Gangster Squad, and the actor also took some time to discuss Oldboy.  During the interview, Brolin talked extensively about how Lee’s Oldboy differs from the original, reaching out to Park Chan-wook for his blessing, the action scenes, and he revealed that Lee shot some extended, improvised takes for Brolin’s scenes in the motel room.  The actor also talked a bit about writer/director Jason Reitman’s upcoming adaptation of Labor Day, in which he stars alongside Kate Winslet.  Hit the jump for the full comments.

josh-brolin-oldboyWith regards to Oldboy, Brolin began by talking about how much he enjoyed the experience of making the film:

“I fucking fell in love with New Orleans.  I absolutely feel deeply in love with Spike [Lee], I feel in love with Sean Bobbitt, the DP, who did Shame and Hunger, fell in love with him.  Fell in love with Lizzie Olson, thought ultimately that if it’s edited together—which I’ll be a part of later—if it’s edited together even close to what the experience was, it will be really good.  It should be really good.”

Brolin went on to emphasize that Lee’s take on the material is in no way a watered down version of the original film, and discussed the differences between the two projects:

With Oldboy, look, it’s Spike Lee, its myself, there’s the DP Sean Bobbitt, who’s fucking amazing, man, and me talking to Chan-wook Park and saying, ‘Do you mind if we do this?’ and his only request was just don’t do the same movie and it’s like no were not interested in that.  Structurally, as a scaffolding, it’s the same movie, but what we do with is very different.  It looks very different.”

Lee actually gave Brolin a compilation of footage for him to watch right after they started shooting, in order to see how the film was turning out:

“Spike, about two and a half weeks into the movie cut together this four minute compilation just for me to look at.  Not that I needed it, not that I felt like I’m lost, I don’t know what I’m doing.  He just gave it to me and said, ‘Don’t look at this until you get home.’ And I watched this four-minute compilation and it looked fantastic.  It was a massive, massive inspiration.”

spike-lee-oldboyThe beginning of the film focuses on how Brolin’s character deals with his mysterious imprisonment in a closed-off motel room.  For the scenes in that room, the actor revealed that Lee would shoot long takes of Brolin improvising how his character might react:

“We did eight minute to eleven minute long takes [in the motel room] where he would just let me go and do whatever.  I’d be sitting there naked in the room and he would say, ‘You’ve been in the room thirteen years: go.’ And I would do eight minutes on that and whatever would come up.  Some of it was really stupid and unusable.  Some of it was really fun and interesting.”

Another unforgettable aspect of the original film is the action sequences, specifically one that takes place in a hallway and plays out in one continuous take.  Brolin talked a bit about their iteration of the scene, revealing that the only similarity between their version and the original version is that it was also shot in one take:

“We don’t match anything [from the hallway scene].  The only matching is that we do it in one take.  That’s the only matching.  That’s the only similarity.  Well, no, there’s one more similarity, but it’s basically the only similarity within that sequence and I think I can be safe to say that it’s not anything like the original other than it is one take and I’ve never experienced or seen anything like it.  And I think what J.J. Perry did as the fight coordinator is something phenomenal.  I will say this, I thought there is no way I could possibly pull it off until about a week before we did it after rehearsing it for quite a while.”

labor-day-book-coverBrolin also has another highly anticipated film coming out next year, Up in the Air writer/director Jason Retiman’s adaptation of the novel Labor Day.  Reitman waited a full year to start production in order for Brolin and co-star Kate Winslet’s schedules to clear up, and audiences are eager to see what the director makes of the decidedly darker material. Speaking with Steve, Brolin described his character thusly:

“I play a guy, right before he gets out, during an appendectomy actually jumps out of the second story window of a prison hospital and escapes and kidnaps a woman and her son and they end up having a relationship over the five days that he’s with them.”

The actor talked about how different the material is from Retiman’s previous films:

“This is very, very different.  I actually see the movie on Tuesday, I believe.  I see the first cut of the movie on Tuesday, which I know several people have seen it, they’re very happy with it.  I know he’s very happy with it.  I know it’s tonally very different for him and I’m excited man.  I’m nervous, but I’m excited.”

Oldboy is set for release on October 11, 2013, while Labor Day is also expected to be released sometime next year.  Read the full transcript of Steve’s interview with Brolin in which they talk about Oldboy and Labor Day below, and look for the full interview closer to the release of Gangster Squad.

Collider: Jumping into Labor Day for a second, what was that experience like?

Josh Brolin: Amazing.

josh-brolin-oldboy-remakeCan you talk a little bit about the film?  Who do you play?  All that stuff.

Brolin: I play a guy, right before he gets out, during an appendectomy actually jumps out of the second story window of a prison hospital and escapes and kidnaps a woman and her son and they end up having a relationship over the five days that he’s with them.

Which is, by the way, so not what Jason Reitman has done before.

Brolin: No, no this is very, very different.  I actually see the movie on Tuesday, I believe.  I see the first cut of the movie on Tuesday, which I know several people have seen it, they’re very happy with it.  I know he’s very happy with it.  I kno it’s tonally very different for him and I’m excited man.  I’m nervous, but I’m excited.  It’s hard to talk about Oldboy where he’s got twenty years in prison, then you’ve got this guy’s got eighteen years in prison and you’re like, “Oh, I’m that guy?” But they’re very, very, very different; very different.

Did you wrap Oldboy yet?

Josh Brolin: I did, already started gaining weight.

I was going to say, does it feel good to be done with that?

Brolin: It does, it does.  I had one of, and I’m not kidding, one of the best time’s I’ve ever had on a movie set, ever.  Labor Day was an amazing shoot for me for very different reasons. Not only did I- I’m not going say hate, I did not have a good experience during Jonah Hex in New Orleans.  I was staying down in the Quarter, which was a massive mistake that I made.  And now I’m staying on Magazine Street.  I was in the Garden District; I fucking fell in love with New Orleans.  I absolutely feel deeply in love with Spike [Lee], I feel in love with Sean Bobbitt, the DP, who did Shame and Hunger, fell in love with him.  Fell in love with Lizzie Olson, thought ultimately that if it’s edited together, which I’ll be a part of later, if it’s edited together even close to what the experience was, it will be really good.  It should be really good.

oldboyI think a lot of people want to hear that this is not some watered down version of this great story.

Brolin: Definitely not.  There’s this whole idea, which I don’t like and I don’t appreciate, I don’t even like talking to people about, “Hollywood is this.  Hollywood does this.  Hollywood waters down.” It really depends on who the filmmakers are, it depends who the actors are and how much control they have, or not even control, how much influence they have over the final cut of something and all that.  And it was like, look, I’m not going to do a movie that is watered down.  I’m just not.  [Gangster Squad] is a watered down movie of sorts, it’s more of a commercial, fun rollercoaster, not a lot of consequence or that kind of thing.  It is what it is.  It’s within the genre that it’s in and tonally what we’ve created. 

With Oldboy, look, it’s Spike Lee, its myself, there’s the DP Sean Bobbitt, who’s fucking amazing, man, and me talking to Chan-wook Park and saying, “Do you mind if we do this?” and his only request was just don’t do the same movie and it’s like no were not interested in that.  Structurally, as a scaffolding, it’s the same movie, but what we do with is very different.  It looks very different.  Spike, about two and a half weeks into the movie cut together this four minute compilation just for me to look at.  Not that I needed it, not that I felt like I’m lost, I don’t know what I’m doing.  He just gave it to me and said, “Don’t look at this until you get home.” And I watched this four-minute compilation and it looked fantastic.  It was a massive, massive inspiration. 

We were out of the motel room at that point, so I didn’t have to do that anymore.  But we spent more time in the motel room.  We did eight minute to eleven minute long takes where he would just let me go and do whatever.  I’d be sitting there naked in the room and he would say, “You’ve been in the room thirteen years; go.” And I would do eight minutes on that and whatever would come up.  Some of it was really stupid and unusable.  Some of it was really fun and interesting.

spike-lee-oldboy-remakeBy the way, just to go on record and I’ll say this, I think Oldboy is a really good movie, but I don’t think it’s flawless.

Brolin: I don’t either.

And I’m not-

Brolin: No, you’re not one of those where it’s- which I don’t understand also, “Why would you remake the film?” Just don’t see it if you don’t like it, if you don’t want to see a remake of the film.  Why do another Star Wars?  Why do three more?  The first three are amazing.  Why do the second one when the first one was great?  Why do a remake?  Who cares? 

My attitude, and I’ve said this many times to many people, as long you make a good movie that’s all that fucking matter.

Brolin: That’s all that fucking matters.

That’s it.

Brolin: And you can choose to see it or not to see it.

And also a lot of people don’t realize that like 99.9% of the people that are going to see Spike Lee’s Oldboy, will have never seen the first one.

Brolin: Absolutely.  So thank god it’s out there as a story as some kind of like mythological, or Shakespearean, or Greek story.  Why not?

oldboy-octopusThere’s a big fish scene in the original and there’s also some really big fight scenes, and I’m curious about-

Brolin: An octopus is involved.

[Laughs]

Brolin: I’ll say that.  I’ll say that.  In what way, I won’t say.

Sure and my other question for you is, there are some great action scenes in the original Oldboy that-

Brolin: Ours are amazing.

One of the things I love about the original Oldboy is the very long takes with action. Without giving away too much do you guys match some of that?

Brolin: We don’t match anything.  The only matching is that we do it in one take.  That’s the only matching.  That’s the only similarity.  Well, no, there’s one more similarity, but it’s basically the only similarity within that sequence and I think I can be safe to say that it’s not anything like the original other than it is one take and I’ve never experienced or seen anything like it.  And I think what J.J.  Perry did as the fight coordinator is something phenomenal.  I will say this, I thought there is no way I could possibly pull it off until about a week before we did it after rehearsing it for quite a while.

I’ve heard some fight scenes that are like 114 moves, or 180 moves, which is fucking bananas to me.

Brolin: Somewhere in between.

jason-reitman-young-adult-set-imageJumping into Labor Day for a second, what was that experience like?

Brolin: Amazing.

Can you talk a little bit about the film?  Who do you play?  All that stuff.

Brolin: I play a guy, right before he gets out, during an appendectomy actually jumps out of the second story window of a prison hospital and escapes and kidnaps a woman and her son and they end up having a relationship over the five days that he’s with them.

Which is, by the way, so not what Jason Reitman has done before.

Brolin: No, no this is very, very different.  I actually see the movie on Tuesday, I believe.  I see the first cut of the movie on Tuesday, which I know several people have seen it, they’re very happy with it.  I know he’s very happy with it.  I know it’s tonally very different for him and I’m excited man.  I’m nervous, but I’m excited.  It’s hard to talk about Oldboy where he’s got twenty years in prison, then you’ve got this guy’s got eighteen years in prison and you’re like, “Oh, I’m that guy?” But they’re very, very, very different; very different.

Look for more with Josh Brolin soon.




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