How 'Flatliners' Reboot Is Representing a New Generation

Kiefer Sutherland's "ambiguous" return to the series was explained by director Niels Arden Oplev and producer Michael Douglas at the film's premiere.
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Actors Diego Luna, Kiersey Clemons, Ellen Page, Nina Dobrev and James Norton arrive at the premiere of Columbia Pictures' 'Flatliners' at the Ace Theatre on September 27, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

Almost 20 years since the original sci-fi thriller with Kiefer Sutherland and Julia Roberts, Sony Picture's upcoming Flatliners has received an upgrade more significant than new technology.

"It's female driven now. It’s three girls and two boys. The old one was four boys and one girl," director Niels Arden Oplev told The Hollywood Reporter at the film's premiere Wednesday night in Los Angeles. Oplev's credits include the original The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

"The unity and the friendship they have is what we need in this world. They look like the real world and not the fake news world that somebody is trying to make us believe. They look like how this world should look. Look, I have a Mexican hero [Diego Luna's Ray] that saves all the beautiful American girls."

Sutherland makes a cameo in the film as a medical professor to the five main characters: med students Courtney (Ellen Page), Marlo (Nina Dobrev), Ray (Luna), Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) and Jamie (James Norton), who follow in his footsteps from the 1990 Joel Schumacher film by killing and then reviving themselves, which causes a strange look into the afterlife. The experience brings on a rush, but haunting side effects as well.

In the original, Sutherland played a medical student who convinced his friends to go along with his afterlife experience.

"I think he [Sutherland] would be recognizable in his manners as an older version of himself, but it's ambiguous if he's the same character or not," said Oplev. "For me, it's kind of like an homage to the old film that he did the cameo for us. That's what really means the most."

Producer Michael Douglas — who also produced the original film — added that Sutherland is a nice, subtle link between the past and present films.

"Why I wanted to do it again is the fact of possibility of life after death is a recurring archetype expression," said Douglas. "The effects that exist now seem easier to investigate these many years later."

The film's cast found a personal connection to their characters. 

"I think she's a representation of most women everywhere, no matter how oppressed," Clemons said of her character, a med student who is under tremendous pressure from her mother to succeed. "I think she's such a good representation of what it means to be a woman in this day and age. As progressive as it is and as many opportunities there are, there is still such a weight to be successful and to be on top."

Dobrev explained that filming scenes where the characters are haunted by their past sins was cathartic. She found herself confronting her own issues and regrets just as her character has to do in the film.

"When you flatline and come back, everyone describes the white light and the fact that they feel different and somehow they want to change. To me, that feels they have been given a second chance, so they want to make more of the second chance and make sure it's positive and they do more with their life and they are better people as a result. Without having to actually flatline, I've been trying to instill that in my life."

Sony and Columbia Pictures' Flatliners hits theaters Friday.

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