For the uninitiated, Spike Lee's new remake of "Oldboy" will be an eye-opener. Based on an operatic, hyper-bleak South Korean thriller of the same name (and both, ostensibly, based on an original Japanese comic book), "Oldboy" follows the exploits of one man (Josh Brolin), who is mysteriously imprisoned for two decades and just-as-mysteriously released to try and seek retribution for his imprisonment and untangle the mystery of why he was locked away in the first place.
Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for Dior
Aiding him on this bloody existential journey is a young woman played by Elizabeth Olsen, from the similarly twisty American independent features "Silent House" and "Martha Marcy May Marlene" (she also provided a brief role in this year's Beat Generation drama "Kill Your Darlings"). Olsen's character has an equally mysterious past but just might be the kind of woman who can find her own kind of peace along with Brolin.
We got a chance to chat with the vivacious Olsen about what she wanted to take from the original (hint: her octopus tattoo is a dead giveaway), whether or not she's seen the fabled three-hour cut of the film, and about the two movies that will dominate her foreseeable future: next summer's "Godzilla" reboot and 2015's "Avengers: Age of Ultron." Turns out, she's super-psyched about playing a superhero in the most hotly anticipated sequel not called "Star Wars: Episode VII."
Moviefone: Were you a fan of the original "Oldboy"?
Elizabeth Olsen: I read the script first. I'm not a good film kid; I never saw "Oldboy." So I read the script first and I was shocked and upset and so grossed out but excited and heartbroken. Then I saw the movie, which my brother thinks is an almost perfect film, and he's right. Just a brilliant, brilliant film. To me, if you have a good story and not a lot of people have seen it because it's in a different language, why wouldn't you want to retell it? I don't really think of it as a remake, like let's try it again. It's more just like, Let's shock people! It's the same reason why Greek tragedies like the Oedipus story are so ubiquitous in so many of the things that we read or see, or why Shakespeare plays are always put on. Good stories deserve to be repeated.
How do you go from being shocked and grossed out to saying, "Yes I want to do this!"?
You know, my whole thing is -- if someone sees a movie and it's some kind of dramatic type of film and it's not light fare -- then people better walk away talking about what they just saw. If you do that, then that's enough for me. That's entertainment! If people are able to be surprised and shocked and horrified and mad then you're making them do something. They have to have an opinion. And I like that. I'd rather people hate something then have no opinion at all. That's more offensive to me.
Was Spike Lee someone whom you'd always wanted to work with?
Totally. To be able to work with Spike is a moment: I've been in a Spike Lee film. And hopefully I get to do another one because I enjoyed it so much. He's such a pleasure to work with, he's the best collaborator I've ever worked with. He starts asking your opinion the moment he meets you about everything in the film, even if it has nothing to do with you. And he has so much heart. And he's got such a specific vision. His color is different than other people's color, his shots are all Spike, he has his own "–isms" that you can study. It's pretty cool.
Was there anything from the original that you were desperate to get into the remake?
Well, all we knew was we wanted to have something equally horrific to the torture of pulling out the guy's teeth. And I think that what they came up with was pretty creative.
What, with cutting Sam's neck?
[Laughs] Yeah! It's a good alternative!
There was an old woman sitting next to me who I thought was going to leave during that sequence.
You know, it's funny because everyone's so offended by that but not by everyone shooting guns at each other. Which, if you're going to see something that vulgar or that vile, it's pretty creative. First, give credit for it being a creative thought and then realize that this isn't based in reality. Let's prove that this is somehow removed from our stark reality of people having shootings in Bryant Park. There's a big difference there. And it's fun to disturb people on that level. I find it enjoyable.
Between "Silent House" and "Martha Marcy May Marlene" it's kind of become your go-to mode.
It's fun! It's fun to piss people off. People are like, "Why would they make me watch that?" And it's like, "Well you chose to see it." So tough.
Josh recently talked about seeing a three-hour cut of the movie.
I didn't get to see that cut. I wish I got to. That would have been cool.
But you've seen the slimmer version?
I don't think I've seen the whole thing properly.
Is there anything, from what you've seen, that you guys shot, that you hope will be included in the longer cut or on the DVD?
Absolutely. There are scenes that flesh out my character a whole lot more. And they didn't make it. But I understand why they didn't make it. The movie is his story, and her scenes serve a purpose. I get that. But they're good little moments about her past.
Was the octopus tattoo a reference to the original?
Yes! I said, "I want to be covered in tattoos and I want one of them to be an octopus." And I had this weird illustrated book that I bought in Serbia about Kon Tiki. I got this book before I saw the movie or heard about the story. And the book is Cyrillic and there are all these sketches of underwater creatures and they had this gnarly octopus and that was our tattoo design. And another tattoo I like is, because I was going off the Cyrillic idea and so one of the tattoos says "father." And I have that written on my wrist.
Speaking of creatures, next summer you're in "Godzilla." What can you say about that?
Well, the movie is an ensemble film led by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. We all play roles that connect to him. I play his wife. And from the looks of what I saw at Comic Con, it's going to be unbelievable. I was so impressed and so excited and high-fived [director] Gareth Edwards. I was so stoked.
Where are you with "Avengers 2?"
I hung out with Mr. Whedon recently. I'm really excited about this movie. I'm so excited about Scarlet Witch. I have had so much fun reading all about her and I am like learning new words that I had to look up on Wikipedia. I'm really enjoying it.
So, you didn't read comic books beforehand?
No, I never read comic books. Comic books was always my brother's thing and he collected comic books every week of his life since he was 7. So he is who I go to when I have meetings about things that have to do with comic books. And now I'm going to know a little bit more about it, about my brother and about the world.
What is the thing that you're most excited about in terms of "Avengers?"
I just love Scarlet Witch. I love her. It's so funny because I'm often talking about all these psychologically damaged people, but when you talk about Scarlet Witch... She is a messed up lady. She has got more sh*t to deal with than anybody else I know. I'm excited to figure out what's appropriate to use for her, because there's so much material from all of these decades, and we're going to tell this one story. So to be able to choose what you're going to bring into it from all of this abundance, it's really fun.
You've got such amazing co-stars, too.
Yeah. I can't wait. It's going to be so much fun. And I have a feeling that everyone is enjoyable. I'm excited.
I can hear the excitement in your voice.
Spike Lee's "Oldboy" hits theater tomorrow, November 27.