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Exclusive: Director Richard Gray talks the “AUDITION” remake

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One of the most attention-grabbing recent bits of remake news involved an English-language take on AUDITION (pictured above), the modern-classic 1999 shocker that helped cement the international rep of Japanese bad-boy director Takashi Miike. FANGORIA got an exclusive chat with the redux’s director, Richard Gray, who reveals that he’s going back to the source for his version.

“It’s important to note that this is a new adaptation of the novel [by Ryu Murakami],” Gray tells us, “not a direct remake of the film—but the knives are out for me [laughs]! The novel is a very deep and powerful canvas that not as many people over here have read—or far fewer than have seen the movie. Going back to the book has allowed us to go deeper in many ways, and also offer something new. We’re not looking to rehash something that’s such a classic; we really have our own take on the novel and what it has to say about misogyny. There are very strong elements in there that we think make for great timing given what’s going on in the world, and we certainly don’t want to mess up what has already been done so incredibly well.”

Previous reports indicate that this AUDITION will follow the basic outline of the Miike film, focusing on widower Sam Davis, who is convinced by a pal to find a new girlfriend by holding casting calls for a non-existent project. He winds up falling for a ballerina named Evie, but the closer he gets to her, the more he learns about her dark past—to his painful regret. The new movie is being backed by veteran producer Mario Kassar, and Gray, who scripted with his wife Michele Davis-Gray, notes, “It has been a passion project for him for almost 10 years, so it’s not something we’re approaching lightly. Having produced BASIC INSTINCT, TERMINATOR 2, STARGATE and RAMBO, he did not want to do a shitty remake, so it’s very fortunate that he’s given me the opportunity to take a crack at it.

“We were working on another project,” continues Gray, whose credits include this week’s release MINE GAMES (which he discussed here), the upcoming THE LOOKALIKE and the currently rolling Jason Momoa film SUGAR MOUNTAIN, “and Mario happened to ask, ‘What do you think about the original AUDITION?’ And it happens to be one of my favorite movies. Being a filmmaker, sometimes when you watch classics, particularly foreign films, your mind wanders to what you could do with your own adaptation. I had actually thought about AUDITION, because the premise is so Western—it’s such a Hollywood idea, to try to find the new love of your life through the casting couch. So I was able to give him a pretty good pitch on how I would approach it. To us, it’s more a psychological thriller than it is a horror film; the first hour is almost a family drama, and then it just turns itself on its head.”

The director hastens to add that while he’s taking a psychological approach, his film won’t shy away from the grisly elements that are part of the Miike film’s notoriety. “It’ll definitely be violent and bloody,” he promises. “When you come from Mario’s background, with films like BASIC INSTINCT, the fact that we’re not approaching it as a horror film doesn’t mean we won’t push the limits of those things. The key is that, so that we’re not just remaking something for the sake of remaking it, we’re thinking about those scenes in AUDITION—whether it be the foot or the eyes or whatever—and how they made us feel at the time, and then trying to create something different that takes you to that same place. It’s also about understanding that violence has advanced a long way since 1999 in terms of what audiences have seen now, particularly in horror films like SAW or HOSTEL. It’s up to us to come up with something original, and evoke the same emotion without doing the same thing, and that’s what we’re working very hard on now.”

There have been no discussions about casting as of yet for the new AUDITION, for which locations are currently being scouted, “because the setting of the story is crucial,” Gray says. “We’re trying to find the perfect look for the screenplay.” Once the film is realized, he adds, “You’re going to be seeing a lot of new scenes that weren’t in the original movie, because it really is [derived from] the book. It’s not like you won’t see certain moments from the first movie, but there’s a lot more to draw upon, and not necessarily in a better or worse way; it’s just different stuff for us to play with, and that might be more relevant in our day and age.

“That has given us a bit of freedom, and also kept us from being locked into redoing things that really don’t need to be redone, which is the biggest criticism. I fully expect a year from now to have to call you from a different country, using a different name [laughs]; that’s just the hatred that will come my way if I don’t do a good job. But you’d better be in it to win it, and I’m up for the challenge. I’ve been thinking about this film for a few years now, and we think we’ve got something pretty powerful lined up.”

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About the author
Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold has been a member of the FANGORIA team for the past three decades. After starting as a writer for the magazine in 1988, he came aboard as associate editor in 1990 and two years later moved up to managing editor. He now serves as editor-in-chief of the magazine while continuing to contribute numerous articles and reviews, as well as a contributing editor/writer for this website.
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