‘Grudge’ helmer back in saddle

Shimizu preps for next big hit

TOKYO — Takashi Shimizu, director of both the Japanese original and the U.S. remake of “The Grudge,” is back in Tokyo to start preparation for his next feature.

After a trip to the U.S. for the “Grudge” premiere, he was still marveling over the pic’s strong opening-weekend results.

“Honestly, we never thought this possible,” Shimizu says of the B.O. numbers. “This corresponds to our first-week projections within the first three days.”

He’s already prepping his next feature for the J-Horror Theater series for Lions Gate and producer Taka Ichise, one of the producers of “The Grudge.”

Ichise discovered and produced Shimizu’s original “The Grudge” and “The Grudge 2,” as well as Japanese horror hits “The Ring,” “The Ring 2” and “Dark Water,” all remade or in the works as remakes in the U.S.

“The Death,” Shimizu isn’t ready to go into detail about the pic, tentatively titled “The Death,” but he says shooting will start in March in Japan and in Japanese.

The J-Horror Theater series, distributed locally by Toho, has been a big success, with a package of the first two pics, “Kansen” and “Yogen,” amassing $7.3 million in less than three weeks of release this month.

Looking back at the shoot of “The Grudge” with American actors in Japan, Shimizu discusses some of the filmmaking differences between his homeland and Hollywood. “At the preparation stage, we had difficulties to get shooting permits for many of the locations we wanted. The American side didn’t quite understand that.”

In Japan, local authorities can be real sticklers when it comes to locations under their authority. Even major local productions have to change shooting plans frequently, especially if they involve filming in major cities. “I barely speak any English,” Shimizu says. “But there wasn’t any problem at the scriptwriting and development stage. All my ideas and input were included.”

The shoot itself went equally smoothly, despite the language barrier. “After a while we didn’t need translators anymore. Especially Jason Behr (in the role of Doug), but also the other main actors, understood what I said in Japanese. They felt it, and they did what I wanted them to do,” Shimizu says.

At times, the helmer felt constricted by strict union rules specifying working hours. “In Japan, actors work as long as the director needs them for a particular scene. It was some kind of an adjustment for me, those fixed working hours,” Shimizu admits.

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