'Ghost Train' on Track as American Remake of Japanese Horror Movie (Exclusive)

Courtesy of B/HImpact
This adapts a Ghost Train one-sheet from the original Japanese poster for Otoshimono

The movie will be the third Japanese remake produced by an American-Japanese partnership

The 2006 Japanese horror movie Otoshimono will get an American makeover as Ghost Train as part of an agreement announced Thursday between All Nippon Entertainment Works (ANEW), Japan's Shochiku Company and producer Depth of Field.

Aimed for production in 2015 and release in 2016, Ghost Train will Americanize the story of what happens to a group of commuters who get on a subway train at a station deep underground and are terrified as the train's passengers disappear. Part of the movie is about a woman trying to find out what happened to her sister who was on the train.

ANEW is financing development. When the script and package are ready, probably early next year, ANEW and Depth of Field will seek partners (likely a Hollywood studio) to finance and distribute the movie, which is expected to have a budget of about $5 million. They are aiming for a wide release.

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This is the third Japanese movie to be put into development in Hollywood by ANEW, which has offices in Tokyo and Los Angeles. The company was founded in 2012 after Innovation Network of Japan  brought in L.A. producer entrepreneur Sandy Climan to create a private-public partnership with the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan. It is funded in part by the Japanese government with an initial capitalization of $80 million. 

ANEW was created to find and clear rights to Japanese intellectual property, mainly horror and anime that lends itself to a Hollywood remake and popular storytelling.

"Film projects based on, or inspired by, Japanese storytelling,"  said Annmarie Bailey, senior vp creative affairs for ANEW, "have been very successful internationally in recent years, and the adaptation of the fresh and original Ghost Train for the English-speaking audience builds on this trend."

It took nine months for ANEW to clear the chain of title on Otoshimono/Ghost Train and its Japanese sequels, which is quick by Japanese standards. ANEW is expected to announce several other projects in the coming months.

"The model is for the Japanese and Americans is to be full partners," said Climan. "The goal is for us to enable the creative collaboration that is endorsed by the Japanese and to have a meeting of the minds as to why this property should be translated and why the U.S. partner is the right creative partner for what is a long-term collaboration."

The other two movies already in process are Soul ReViver, which is being done in association with Fields Corp. and filmmakers Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz of Bedford Falls, who are writing that script, and a live-action remake of Toei Animation's robot anime Gaiking, with producer Gale Ann Hurd's Valhalla Entertainment.

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Otoshimono, which was never released in the U.S., was produced by for Shochiku Co. It was written and directed by Takeshi Furusawa and produced by Yoshitaka Ishizuka, both of whom will consult on the development of the adaptation.  

"The original inspiration for Otoshimono was numerous American horror titles which makes this remake feel like a homecoming for the property," Furusawa said. "I'm very excited to see how the original version evolves in the American remake version."

They have already held video teleconferences with Depth of Field's Dan Balgoyen (Admission), who is overseeing the English language remake, and writers Josh Miller and Patrick Casey (Golan the Insatiable for Fox TV).

"Our goal," said Balgoyen, "in working with the writers and conversing with the original filmmakers was to get their insights and what they were trying to do. We want something that's not reminiscent of The Ring (2002) or The Grudge (2004) or that sort of horror film from the 1990s and early 2000s. We want to make a supernatural scarefest set in an interesting environment we haven't really seen before."

Depth of Field was founded in 1999 by brothers Chris and Paul Weitz (American Pie) along with Andrew Miano (Being Flynn, A Single Man).

Miano said they immediately wanted to get involved with Ghost Train because "it's original and cool and something that hasn't been widely seen here," adding: "Horror is not a genre we have developed a lot in. Maybe we will be able to put a little spin on it."

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Oct. 30, 8:30 a.m. Andrew Miano's name was spelled incorrectly in an earlier version. Sandy Climan did not found ANEW, but was brought in as CEO by Innovation Corporation of Japan.