For many film fans, Stoker is a major event in cinema, the long-awaited arrival of Park Chan-wook on American shores. The director of Oldboy, among other genre favorites, has a cult fandom, but only for films made in his native South Korea. Even more, Stoker features a striking cast, including Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, and Mia Wasikowska, as well as a script from Wentworth Miller, star of the departed FOX drama Prison Break. At a recent press event in Los Angeles, Park (along with a translator), Kidman, Goode, and Wasikowska came together to discuss the making of Park’s English-language debut as well as working from a script written by someone best known for being on the other side of the camera.
The shift was, perhaps, most striking for Park, who’s accustomed to a much different shooting style in South Korea. As he put it, through his translator, he “had to shoot twice as fast in Hollywood as [he] does in Korea.” Though he uses storyboards, much like most live-action films, Chan-wook typically is able to cut together shots in a sequence so the actors and crew can see the full context of the scene as it’s being created. Here, he didn’t have that luxury. (And Goode, for one, felt that luxury would’ve been a great addition, saying, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to spend twice as much time with him?”)
Something else that could’ve posed a major roadblock for the stars and director was the difference in language. Goode, whose first film was in Spanish, a language he doesn’t speak, found it not nearly as trying as some might have. For him, the chief question on set was: “Who should [I] be looking at?” Goode also had a slightly different role to play, in that his Uncle Charlie is something of a predator. “He dances,” Goode told the assembled press. He described further that he deliberately made his movements stealthy yet deliberately choreographed.
Perhaps the greatest shift in the filming of Stoker, a movie that Park called as “being about bad blood,” is that the cast and director couldn’t stop emphasizing how wonderful a time they had on set. Despite the darkness of the story, about how Uncle Charlie’s moving in with Evelyn (Kidman) and her daughter India (Wasikowska) after the death of India’s father, the three leads found much to latch onto so they wouldn’t let the plot become too oppressive off-camera. This, in spite of the sometimes-challenging logistics of the shoot, including a burial scene that had to be redone due to a lack of finance. Goode said, however, that Park was unflappable under the circumstances, “because of the nature of play.” Park was able to find Stoker playful even though the themes were fairly dark. “You could say that evil is contagious,” he said, continuing that “every person harbors the seed for evil inside, and Uncle Charlie is one of those people who’s able to grow it into a flower.”
In terms of the script, the actors were unfazed when asked about any obvious differences between something written by a fellow thespian. “A good script is a good script,” Wasikowska said. “I was instantly drawn into this world and these complex characters.” Kidman agreed, though she admitted that “I had to read it a couple times to understand it.” But since she found that “the strength of director Park is his atmosphere,” the script, which she said heavily relied on “the language of the images,” was more than appropriate to his sensibilities.
As such, Stoker, despite being a thriller, may not be able to be easily categorized. “I’m not sure what genre it fits into,” Kidman said when asked to compare it to other entries in the genre. Stoker, which has been released in some theaters around the US and Canada, and will be opening in more markets on Friday, March 15th, may be difficult to pin down, but it’s proven to be an easy transition for a beloved genre director from a foreign land to move into the Western world’s film industry. And in Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, and Mia Wasikowska, Park Chan-wook now has some pretty heavy hitters in his camp.