Creativity key in Asia-H'wood crossover

Verbinski: In Asia, 'greater trust in the filmmaker'

BUSAN, South Korea -- The creativity and artistic freedom in Asian cinema is its greatest resource in crossing over into Hollywood. That was the main message in a high-powered discussion held at the Asian Film Market on Tuesday.

Peter Loehr, of CAA in Beijing, led a discussion about Asian actors in Hollywood blockbusters and crossing over talent in general, with a panel of Michelle Yeoh, Gore Verbinski and Spencer Baumgarten of CAA.

"On 'Pirates,' crew members slipped me 'Oldboy,' and I was totally blown away," said Verbinski, who pointed out Korean directors Park Chan-wook ("Oldboy") and Bong Joon-ho ("The Host"). "Hollywood has a tendency to homogenize things. They want to make things that already worked. But audiences don't want to see something that they saw last year.

"It's not math. It's intuitive."

Verbinski expressed a strong interest in the creative freedom and powerful voices coming from Asian directors these days. "Since beancounters took over Hollywood, you have an economic-driven model," Verbinski said. "Looking at Korean cinema in general and Asian cinema in general, there seems to be greater trust in the filmmaker."

Yeoh talked about how difficult it still is for Asian actors in Hollywood. "Agents really have to be creative to talk to the studios and allow them to imagine how an Asian face would fit into script," she said. But in addition, "Asian actors need to be aggressive to be available and meet with directors who do not have scripts that specifically call for an Asian character."

"The studios have woken up and realized that the rest of the world, Asia does step up to the plate," she said. "The boxoffice here is something to be taken seriously."

Baumgarten said, "I think it gets easier as you can show the international market is shifting and becoming larger. Because as it grows, at the end of the day it is not a risk."

Verbinski also warned of Hollywood filmmakers thinking they can just transplant stories to an Asian setting. "Backdrops lead to cliches," he said. "I think it needs to come from Asia. There's a tremendous amount to learn from over here."

Loehr said, "What we don't want is another movie in Asia with an opium addict, gangster or prostitute. We just put those scripts away."