As a big fan of the original 2003 South Korean film Oldboy, I’d have to say that I think that the American remake, directed by Spike Lee, is pretty terrible. But I can’t help but give credit to star Josh Brolin for taking on the film’s lead role of Joe, which is both emotionally and physically taxing.
Brolin spoke to Moviefone about the demands of the role and how he prepared to film the American take on the original’s famous hammer scene.
When asked if it was the most demanding role he’s ever played, Brolin answered, “No, it’s demanding in a very different way. Physically demanding, emotionally demanding, but W was very demanding. I was just terrified to play that guy. This was more demanding experimentally, because you’re not really sure where it’s going to go or what’s going to happen. Spike sticks you in a room and puts an 11-minute mag on the film camera and just says, ‘Go!’ Sometimes it was embarrassing and sometimes it was funny. Sometimes it worked and sometimes you’d cry and sometimes you were really laughing hysterically. It just got weird. I think it’s the weirdest role I’ve ever done.”
Like the original, one of the remake’s most celebrated sequences is when Joe wields a claw hammer against a gang of thugs. In both visions the sequence is done in a single take. However, Brolin admits it wasn’t shot in a single take and the scene took an immense about of preparation. He reveals, “Longer than I wanted to and still didn’t have long enough. When we started the fight — we did a couple of fights, but the long fight — it was daunting. I could only get through maybe about 25, maybe 30 seconds of it without gasping for air. And then, finally, every week I got a little bit better, a little bit better. I trained twice a day — we got up at 4:30 in the morning and trained and then we’d work and then I’d train at night. So by the time I did it, we thought we’d have to have 25 or 30 minutes between each take and it only ended up being like 6 or 7 minutes.”