In your classic Hollywood romantic comedy, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back and all presumably live happily ever after.
However in the case of the 2001 South Korean blockbuster “My Sassy Girl,” boy meets one very drunk and, yes, very sassy girl — and then the girl wreaks all kinds of havoc on the boy’s life, in the name of love, of course. Based on a series of true stories posted on the Internet by Ho-sik Kim that went on to become a best-selling graphic novel, the story begins with a chance meeting between the reluctant hero and the mysterious and intoxicated damsel in distress. And it’s considered one of Asia’s most popular films of all time.
Here in the U.S., Hollywood took notice. “My Sassy Girl” is the latest Asian film to be remade by Tinseltown. Shot on location in New York’s Central Park and Upper East Side, the American remake stars Elisha Cuthbert and Jesse Bradford as young polar opposites who “are not made to be together,” said the film’s French director, Yann Samuell. “It’s a fable about destiny, in the end.”
“It’s a movie about a guy who’s way too much on the straight and narrow, and a girl who’s really kind of crazy due to recent tragic events in her life,” said Bradford between takes on a brisk, wintry afternoon. “It’s a romantic comedy about how they pull each other to a more healthy place by virtue of their relationship.”
For 27-year-old Bradford, who after a string of supporting roles in films like Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” and “Hackers” starred opposite Kirsten Dunst in “Bring It On,” the opportunity to play Charlie Bellow, the clean-cut, Midwestern grad student, had a lot of appeal. “I think, for me, it’s more about being drawn to stuff that’s generally a bit more unlike me. I saw an opportunity to create a little bit of a character. Not to say there aren’t shades of me in there, and not to say I’m this wild jerk or anything like that,” he said with a laugh.
Bradford’s co-star, Elisha Cuthbert, said her “Sassy” role as the complicated mess Jordan Roark has been a cherished challenge. “This is the first time that I’ve been letting myself go to places of fear for me,” said the 24-year-old Canadian. “Five years ago, I don’t think I could have done this role. It’s very out-there and risky. Now I think I’m ready.” Six years ago, Cuthbert took the role of Kim Bauer in Fox’s hit series “24,” and she eventually secured a spot on virtually every “Sexiest Woman Alive” list after playing blond bombshells in “Old School,” “Love Actually” and “The Girl Next Door.”
With a predominantly American cast, a French director and a story born in South Korea, “My Sassy Girl” is a virtual melting pot of international talent — something Samuell takes great pride in. “It has a universal language to it,” he said. “I’d say it’s probably, to me, one of those rare romantic comedies that talks about men and not only women.”
One of the film’s executive producers, Vertigo Entertainment CEO Roy Lee, has become a specialist in remaking Asian films for American audiences. In a 2003 New Yorker profile, he was hailed as “Hollywood’s Remake King.” But even with an impressive lineup of hits credited to his name, including “The Ring,” “The Grudge” and, most recently, “The Departed,” Lee’s latest project is extremely special to him. ” ‘My Sassy Girl’ is actually my favorite Asian film,” he said in an interview at his Beverly Hills office. “I was actually surprised when I first saw it that I actually liked it … I really didn’t think I’d ever produce a movie called ‘My Sassy Girl’ because it’s a very light romantic comedy. But the story itself is fantastic.” Lee credits Samuell for giving the film an “Amélie”-like look and feel.
While the film just wrapped shooting and is headed into post-production, Samuell said he hopes audiences will embrace the film, and one another. “I think the first thing [the audience] will do is to grab their cell phones and call their girlfriends or boyfriends and tell them ‘I love you.’ ”
“My Sassy Girl” will be out in theaters this fall.
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