Nakata ponders return to U.S.


Japanese director Hideo Nakata is in talks with U.S. production shingle Vertigo to produce a psychological thriller — even after his previous Hollywood experience left him "frustrated," he said.

It was partly his experience while working in Los Angeles for the remake of his "The Ring 2" (2005) that inspired him to write his Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum entry "Gensenkan," a fish-out-of-water story budgeted at $5 million and set in an onsen (hot springs) in Japan.

"I was in a Jacuzzi on the roof of the hotel in Burbank where I was staying," Nakata said. "It reminded me of the hot springs in Japan. I dreamed of the Japanese hot springs the whole time I was in there."

The story marks a significant change of style for the director famous for the "Ringu" classic horror series. It revolves around the conflicts between an American hotelier from Los Angeles who went to Japan to buy and renovate an onsen and the Japanese family who owns it.

Nakata and Japanese-American producer Jennifer Fukasawa collaborated on the film, which reflects on the differences between the two cultures. "Assertiveness is a big virtue in America, whereas in Japan, we strive to be harmonious," Nakata said.

The Hollywood experience was also the backbone of the documentary "Foreign Filmmaker's Guide to Hollywood" that Nakata shot from 2006 to the end of 2007.

"Working in Hollywood is interesting and frustrating," he said. "The development process was very time-consuming. It gave me strong doubts and made me skeptical, which I have never felt when I worked in Japan. I kept asking myself, 'How can I make a movie?' "

He said he had developed projects with Hollywood studios that fell through, both before and after "The Ring 2." Although the documentary was a personal story of his own experiences, he interviewed Takashi Shimizu, fellow Japanese expat director of "The Grudge" (2004), to share horror stories.