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What would you get if you brought together the studio behind Bong Joon Ho’s genre-bending Oscar winner Parasite and the company responsible for Ari Aster’s daylit horror freakout Midsommar?
Probably something like this project, unveiled Thursday by Bong’s backers in South Korea, powerhouse Seoul-based studio CJ Entertainment, and Aster’s production banner Square Peg.
The partners — an unlikely but inspired match — are teaming up to produce an English-language remake of the South Korean auteur Jang Joon-hwan’s wildly original sci-fi cult classic Save the Green Planet! (2003). Jang is returning to direct the remake from a script written by Will Tracy (HBO’s Succession, Searchlight’s The Menu), with Aster and his production partner Lars Knudsen producing alongside CJ’s head of U.S. productions Francis Chung.
“Swinging with youthful abandon between white-knuckle suspense, absurd slapstick, grim horror and a deeply felt (and earned) sense of tragedy, Save the Green Planet! is one of the most remarkable films to come out of South Korea — among this recent wave or any wave, for that matter,” said Aster in a statement.
With its galloping pace and bizarro originality, Save the Green Planet! became a sleeper hit on the international festival circuit upon its release in 2003. The film was Jang’s feature debut, which he followed with the revenge thriller Hwayi: A Monster Boy (2013) and the political thriller 1987: When the Day Comes (2017). Both films did sizable business at the South Korean box office. The Save the Green Planet! remake will be Jang’s first film in English.
For a taste of the original’s offbeat story, here is CJ’s official summary: “In the original film, Joon-hwan Jang imagines the fate of the human race hinging on Byun-gu, a bitter, paranoid and eccentric beekeeper who, with the help of his tightrope walker girlfriend, Sooni, kidnaps a powerful and successful businessman, Man-sik. Byun-gu believes that Man-sik is an alien from the planet Andromeda, one of many hiding among us and plotting to destroy the Earth in a few days. Amphetamine-popping Byun-gu sees himself as the planet’s last hope, and sets about torturing Man-sik with relish, trying to convince him to contact the “Royal Prince” and call off Armageddon. A battle of wits and wills ensues, with Man-sik trying to convince his captors that he’s human and attempting to escape. Man-sik recognizes Byun-gu as a disgruntled former employee whose comatose mother suffers from a mysterious illness. It begins to seem that Byun-gu’s true motivation may be personal, but he’s still ruthlessly determined to get Man-sik to confess and cooperate, even if he has to risk killing him. Meanwhile, a disheveled detective, Chu, and his young acolyte, Inspector Kim, discover that the person who kidnapped Man-sik may have struck several times before, always with deadly results.”
Added Aster: “When we heard that director Jang was passionate about revisiting this iconic work, bringing it to the U.S. and updating it to reflect the mess of the world today — which feels even more ripe for this kind of apocalyptic skewering than when the film was first released — we leapt at the chance to be a part of it.”
Executive producing the remake are CJ Group Vice Chairwoman Miky Lee and CJ Entertainment’s Young-ki Cho and Jerry Ko. Fred Lee, CJ Entertainment’s Los Angeles-based director of development, Ini Chung, CJ’s Seoul-based director of development, and Seoul-based production exec Khan Kwon are co-producing and will oversee development of the project.
Said Miky Lee: “One thing we learned from our success with Parasite is that audiences globally are excited to see genre-bending films with big themes. Jang is a master of this in his own right, and we’re so glad to be working alongside Ari, Lars, and Will to help translate what made the original so special to an English-language version that feels relevant to what’s going on today.”
Save the Green Planet! joins a growing slate of English-language remakes from CJ’s library of inventive South Korean film hits. The company has over 20 remakes — in various stages of development and production — that were announced in just the last two years. Among them are action flick Extreme Job, a collaboration with Kevin Hart and Universal Pictures, and the female-driven dramedy Bye, Bye, Bye, based on the Korean hit Sunny.
Adam Mehr at McCathern Law negotiated the Save the Green Planet! remake deal on behalf of CJ Entertainment. Aster is represented by WME and managed by Elia; and Knudsen and Tracy are both repped by WME.
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