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[ENTERTAINMENT]Success of 'My Wife' Spurs U.S. Adaptation

Oct 19,2001
After the huge box-office success of this year's film "Friends," which sold 8.2 million tickets, it's no longer remarkable for a local film to sell more than a million tickets, which was thought unattainable just a few years ago. Want proof? The role-reversing comedy "My Wife Is a Gangster" has already sold 3.5 million tickets since its release Sept. 28. That was reason enough for its producers to throw a celebratory bash Wednesday.

The story of a mighty gangsterette and her weak and submissive husband, the film was slapped with a B-movie label by many critics, who expected the slapstick comedy to flop. But something about it appealed to local audiences; more than 1 million people packed theaters to see the film within five days of its release, a record for a local film to reach that milestone.

"Nobody expected this gangster comedy to work, but it sure did," Seo Se-won, the chairman of Seo Se-won Production, which packaged "My Wife," said at the party. Seo, also a well-known comedian, practically cried out with joy upon saying those words.

Movie buffs used to the numbers racked up by Hollywood moguls like Spielberg and Lucas may consider such merrymaking much ado about nothing, but the producers of "My Wife" and the director, Cho Jin-gyu, had another reason to celebrate: This week they sold the rights to remake the film to one of Hollywood's biggest movie distributors, Miramax Films, for $1.1 million. "Miramax told us that the plot of the film is exciting enough to appeal not only to Koreans but to people worldwide," said Seo Young-ju, the executive who negotiated the deal for the local firm. Miramax will pay $950,000 for the remake rights and $150,000 for the original's U.S. distribution rights.

The proposed remake, aiming for worldwide release within two years, is set to star Cameron Diaz as the wife, who was played by Shin Eun-kyung in the original version.

Seo also said that the contract he signed calls for his company to receive 5 percent of the profit earned by the remake in the United States, and that Miramax is expecting receipts of the new "My Wife" to total $10 million to $50 million.

Cho, the director, told the Joong-Ang Ilbo English Edition that the deal with Miramax is quite encouraging for the Korean movie scene, in terms of gaining greater influence to the worldwide movie scene.

"Just as Hong Kong films achieved success in the past for their universal appeal, I think it's Korea's turn now," Cho said. Cho believes that Japanese movies generally are artistically adept and critically acclaimed but fail to appeal to wide audiences because they are too "exotic," and designed for Japanese audiences. "But I think Korean movies are similar to Hong Kong's, which augurs well for worldwide success. 'My Wife Is a Gangster' will be the first of that trend, hopefully."

The biggest winners of this possible first step? Us, the moviegoers. Before long we'll probably see Diaz beating her meek and acquiescent husband black and blue and being admired by her juniors as the "big sister."

by Chun Su-jin




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