'The Ring' Director Hideo Nakata: 'I'm Not Really Into Grotesque Stuff' (Q&A)

Hideo Nakata 2013 P

At the second Okinawan International Movie Festival, he discusses getting famous for gore by accident, how the Asian horror wave has died down in the U.S., and why he's hoping to work in Bollywood.

The director of Japanese horror-phile favorite the Ringu franchise (The Ring), Hideo Nakata, arrived in Japan's southern islands this week for the domestic debut of his latest chiller, The Complex, at the Okinawan International Movie Festival. The Hollywood Reporter sat down with the veteran genre master to discuss the social undercurrents of his new film, how he never planned to make -- or particularly liked -- scary movies, and why his next project might be taking him to Bollywood. 

The Hollywood Reporter: The Complex (Kuroyuri Danchi) is set in a public housing project. Why did you choose that setting?

Hideo Nakata: I discussed it with the producers, and Dark Water also took place in a housing complex. We wanted to set the film in an old, somewhat broken-down, low-income housing project with lots of the same type of apartments all lined up together, where there are old people living next to young families, and a lot of the elderly residents are socially isolated.

Rotterdam Review: The Complex (Kuroyuri Danchi)

THR: The problem of old people dying alone has caused a lot of concern in Japan recently. What made you include that in the story?

Nakata: As I was developing the script, there were a lot of incidents in the news of elderly people dying alone and their bodies not being discovered for weeks. Japan is a rapidly aging society and it's making headlines now, but there will be a time when it's no longer considered newsworthy. There are cases where 60-year-old children are looking after 90-year-old parents, and so they don't get much help from the authorities. Then the younger carer dies first, leaving the older person helpless. It's not the theme of the film, but it became part of the story; it's a reality of Japanese society.

THR: Your film Ringu was famously remade in Hollywood. Do you expect to get remake offers for The Complex?

Nakata: There are no solid remake offers yet, but there are some people interested. The J-horror and Asian horror wave has kind of died down in America now. That's the film business; it goes in cycles.

THR: You've said you never intended to be a horror director.

Nakata: I wasn't really a horror cinephile or anything. I kind of came to be a horror director by accident, and I'd like to do more work in other genres. Wes Craven, who of course has made a lot of different kinds of films, once said that when you get the offer to do your second horror film in a row, you have to say no or you get labeled as a horror director. Of course, I watched films like The Exorcist, which was a huge hit in Japan, when I was in junior high school, but I wasn't a big horror fan, and I never thought I'd end up making them. I never really liked the splatter films of the 80s, either. I'm not really into grotesque stuff.

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THR: And you have done some non-horror work.

Nakata: I made the documentary about the March 2011 disasters, Living in the Wake of 3/11, which I financed myself as an independent film. I spoke to Japanese television stations about cooperating on it, but there were some issues about some of the topics I wanted to include. The line taken by the media was that even after the disaster, Japan stayed completely orderly and there was no stealing or looting, but actually there was some. So I decided to fund the documentary myself and have complete freedom in what I included. It has been shown in arthouse cinemas in Japan, but hasn't really been seen abroad. The attention of the world shifted away from the aftermath of the tsunami to the Fukushima nuclear accident anyway.

THR: What is next for you?

Nakata: I'm working on a Japanese action-thriller that will be shooting in July and August and should be finished by the end of the year. I can't give any more details about it yet. I'm also talking to an Indian company about making a film in English. It will probably be a horror, but not one with singing and dancing [laughs]. That's really interesting, how globalized the industry is getting, with Indian companies looking at making a film in English, not Hindi. I'd really like to do more work in genres outside horror, though. I'm very grateful for horror, and I'm not against doing them, but I'd like to explore other kinds of filmmaking.