'Sideways' Remake Could Start a Trend

Heavy on product placement involving wineries

TOKYO -- The Japanese remake of "Sideways" contains no Merlot-bashing but enough product placement to make even plug-jaded audiences either wince or smile -- though debutant director Cellin Gluck insists the film received no monetary compensation.

"We did get goods and services from the companies, a kind of friendly payback," responded Gluck to a question from The Hollywood Reporter at a Q&A after a Tokyo screening.

"They helped us out; we helped them. We're not a bunch of robber barons from Hollywood," continued Gluck, who was raised in Japan and answered questions in fluent Japanese.

"Some people have called it blatant but I think the inclusion of real places adds to the realism," said Gluck, referring to the wineries which feature prominently on screen and in the dialogue.

Fox International Productions teamed up with the Fuji TV network for the "re-imagining" of the 2005 surprise hit which took a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. The new version was produced by Fuji's hit-maker Chihiro Kameyama, who has been behind some of Japan's biggest grossing live-action pictures.

Kameyama explained that once he was able to get past the teams of lawyers and deal directly with the U.S. producer, getting the remake rights was fairly simple.

"If this is successful then we'd certainly like it to be the first of many Japanese remakes of U.S. films. They would need to have something unique like 'Sideways' though," said Kameyama.

Shot on location in Napa Valley with an all-American crew, the new version is understood to have been made for around $3 million, less than 20% of the original's budget.

The screening at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan was preceded by a tasting of Napa Valley wines from some of the wineries in the movie, with even a couple of Merlots thrown in for good measure.