Chan-Wook – who goes by the name Director Park on set – is one of the most celebrated and popular filmmakers in Korea, his work known for its very precise framing and violent subject matter. His earliest films were not a huge success, and he initially supplemented his income as a film critic. It was 2000’s Joint Security Area that would help him break through, and by 2004 he’d won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival for Oldboy. Director – and fan – Quentin Tarantino, as head judge, personally pushed for him to also be awarded the Palme d’Or.
Filmmaker Park Chan-Wook has created a singular body of work during his more than 20 years as a writer, director and producer of some of Korean cinema’s most innovative and original movies, crafting feverish scenarios that combine lyrical beauty with shattering acts of violence and operatic emotion. “Stoker” is a dark and disturbing thriller about a mysterious and isolated American family. Even the film’s title makes metaphorical allusion to evil, invoking the name of Dracula author Bram Stoker, whose groundbreaking novel is as much about an opportunist who preys on the innocent as it is the supernatural world of the vampire.
Best known for his “The Vengeance Trilogy” in his native South Korea – including 2003’s critically lauded Oldboy – director, screenwriter and producer Park Chan-Wook tackles his first American movie with “Stoker.” He continued to have great success – three of his movies are in the thirty highest grossing films of all time in South Korea – and continued to push boundaries: his 2011 film Paranmanjang was shot entirely on an iPhone.
Now he brings his incredible talents for the first time to the States, directing a script by former “Prison Break” star Wentworth Miller. Stoker follows the story of India Stoker (Wasikowska), whose father dies in an auto accident. Soon after, her Uncle Charlie (Goode), who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her emotionally unstable mother Evie (Kidman). Soon after his arrival, she comes to suspect this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives, but instead of feeling outrage or horror, this friendless girl becomes increasingly infatuated with him.
Over the past two decades, Park Chan-Wook has established a rotating troupe of actors with whom he works regularly in Korea. He has developed an intensely collaborative method of working hand-in-hand with his favorite performers to flesh out and fully define the unusual and original characters that people his films. For his first American movie, he had to put together a new creative family of actors with the same kind of sensitivity, intelligence and talent.
“I am especially excited for audiences to see this film for the performances by these wonderful actors,” says the director. “They are each at different stages of their lives and careers, and are rather different kinds of actors from each other. Seeing how they come together so successfully is worth experiencing.”
Park’s extensive preparation makes it easier for him to shoot quickly and precisely. “My style of filmmaking involves very specific camera movements,” he explains. “I edit the film in my head well in advance, so working in the conventional manner, with long masters and lots of coverage, does not work for me.”
The film’s shooting schedule was abbreviated compared to the customary pace in Korea, which also affected the way the camera was used. “Having to capture the scenes so quickly made it difficult to use the long elaborate camera movements I am known for,” Park says. “But this may have a better effect on the film. When such shots are used only in the most memorable way, it increases the tension.”
“Stoker” is a fitting addition to Park’s acclaimed canon of work, according to producer Costigan. “Like all of Director Park’s films, it is primal, but also poetic and human. It’s about overwhelming emotion and its intersection with violence. He was able to craft Wentworth Miller’s riveting script into something even scarier, surprising, beautiful and lush, even funny at times. Everyone involved with the film feels very proud to have been able to help director Park make a true ‘Park Chan-Wook film’ in America.”
Startling family secrets are about to be revealed when “Stoker” opens March 1 in cinemas from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.