Empire recently had cause to speak to Sharlto Copley, and while the bulk of that conversation is classified for now, it would have been remiss of us not to ask him about Oldboy. Copley is currently shooting the manga adaptation in New Orleans, under the aegis of director Spike Lee. "Spike's very cool, man," Copley enthuses. "He's a real artist. You can see why he has the reputation he does. He's a pleasure to work with."
Oldboy, you'll be well aware, currently exists as a hammer-wielding, octopus-bothering South Korean revenge epic, thrown raging at the screen by Park Chan-wook in 2003. It stars Choi Min-Sik as protagonist Oh Dae-su, released from a fifteen-year imprisonment and looking for some serious answers with a sharp new suit and a mobile phone, and is the middle instalment of Park's Vengeance Trilogy, in between Sympathy For Mr Vengeance and Lady Vengeance.
It is much admired, hence a constant outpouring of online opprobrium and vitriol against the new version. It's worth noting however, that technically Oldboy isn't a remake of Park's film, but a new movie adapted from the original manga by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi. The comics stretch to eight volumes originally released over two years in the 1990s, and don't bear a great resemblance to the movie we already have.
"It's such a good story!" says Copley. "Something like this only comes along very rarely, and it seems perfectly reasonable to have a reimagining of it. Very often Hollywood will remake something just because there’s a built-in audience, just for the commercial aspect of doing it. That’s fair enough, I guess. But with this, if you look at the people who have got involved, it’s more for the creative drive."
"It’s not a massive franchise that you’re trying to reboot," he continues, "or something that’s going to make a gazillion dollars. It’s just a film that’s artistically inspiring to people. Spike is an artist who’s been inspired to do it. The drive behind it isn’t a studio or an executive thinking it’s a great marketing opportunity. The drive behind it for the producers and the actors and the director, is simply the inspiration of the story. You'll notice it’s not a project populated with people who are known for only taking jobs because they’re commercial..."
Feeling more optimistic now? Let us have your thoughts in the comments below. Copley stars in Oldboy alongside Josh Brolin, Samuel L Jackson and Elizabeth Olsen (who similarly came to the film's defence recently). It's due for release next October.