×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

HKIFF: Renny Harlin Talks Festival Opener ‘Bodies at Rest’

After a successful career in Hollywood making action films including “Die Hard 2” and “Cliffhanger,” director Renny Harlin has called Beijing his home for the past few years. His third Chinese-language movie, “Bodies at Rest,” is set as the opener of the Hong Kong Intl. Film Festival on Monday. Harlin says he has learned plenty.

What are audiences going to get from this film?

I love the single-location thriller genre. This one is set in a morgue on Christmas Eve, in which two lab technicians endure a night of hell with criminals who want them to hand over a bullet found in a body. The criminals killed a member of a prominent crime syndicate and need to remove the evidence. But, we learn that the chief pathologist is the last person on earth who is going to collaborate with criminals.

Obviously, “The Shining” is the reference point for films of this genre. We built the interior of the morgue in a studio in Beijing. And I had a great experience, planning shots and styles to deliver an action thriller set in a mortuary.

How did you and the project come together?

Wanda Media went to Hollywood and talked to all the agencies seeking their unproduced scripts that they could produce in Chinese. They bought the rights to several, and hired a Chinese writer to translate them. When they approached me, they offered me a version of that translated back into English. I sought out the original English script, re-wrote that, and we have worked from a version of that translated into Chinese.

This is my third Chinese-language movie. I’ve been lucky enough to work with bilingual actors, but also surround myself with script supervisors, assistant directors and experts to keep me on track. Language was not a barrier for some of the great German directors working in English in Hollywood in the 1940s.

What have you learned about Chinese film making after three movies here?

Making the film was a fascinating part of my learning process in China. As the criminals barge in, I have one of the technicians say the line: “This is not a bank.” I was told not to be sarcastic. That is not part of Chinese humor. But then my partners encouraged me to leave it in. People may get the joke eventually.

Similarly, after these two technicians, one male, one female, have endured their ordeal they kinda find each other. I thought they’d hug. But again, I was told that no, they’d come together and shake hands.

I’ve also learned that Chinese film crews are great. I’ve just been shooting “The Misfits” in the Middle East. If I’d been making it in China, it would certainly be quicker. Chinese crews don’t walk, they run. And as a director, you have to have your game face on all the time.

And about Chinese audiences?

Emotion is so important, you have to dig deep into emotions. We now have a company, Extraordinary Entertainment, producing films in China, and we are always asking ourselves, “How do we make things resonate?” The other element is humor. It is not the same as Western humor, but lots of it is a good thing.

Give people an experience with real emotion and humor and you’ve got a hit movie in China.

More Film

  • Britney Spears Musical

    Britney Spears Musical 'Once Upon a One More Time's' Film Rights Land at Sony

    Sony Pictures has won screen rights to the Broadway-bound “Once Upon a One More Time,” a fairy tale featuring classic songs from Britney Spears, sources have confirmed to Variety. John Davis’ Davis Entertainment will produce the film along with Spears and her manager, Larry Rudolph. Neither a writer nor a director has yet been attached. [...]

  • ‘Girl on the Train’ India Remake

    ‘Girl on the Train’ Indian Remake Set at Reliance Entertainment (EXCLUSIVE)

    India’s Reliance Entertainment will produce the official Indian remake of Tate Taylor’s 2016 film “The Girl on the Train.” Ribhu Dasgupta, who is currently completing Netflix series “Bard Of Blood,” being produced by Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment, will direct. Parineeti Chopra (“Kesari”) will star. Production will commence at U.K. locations from mid-July. Based [...]

  • 'Avengers: Endgame' Cast Gets Hands and

    Watch Live: 'Avengers' Cast Gets Hands and Feet Cemented at TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood

    The Avengers have left an indelible mark on popular culture and now they are doing the same to the cement floor outside of the TCL Chinese Theater. Watch the livestream video of “Avengers: Endgame” cast Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans,  Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige imprinting [...]

  • Zachary Levi

    'Shazam!' Star Zachary Levi to Host 2019 MTV Movie & TV Awards

    “Shazam!” star Zachary Levi will be suiting up next for the 2019 MTV Movie & TV Awards in June. Levi will emcee the award show on June 17 at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. Nominees will be announced in the coming weeks. Fresh off DC Comics’ latest blockbuster, Levi is no stranger to [...]

  • Steve Golin The Revenant Spotlight Producer

    'Spotlight' Director Tom McCarthy Remembers Steve Golin as 'A Warrior and a Mensch'

    It was a brutal process to get “Spotlight” made. The movie was dead at least three times before we shot it because of financing problems, studio problems, deadlines, actors’ availability and the time of year we could shoot. There were moments when Steve and I were just going at it. We’d have hilarious late-night correspondence. [...]

  • "A War Within"

    SF Studios Scoops International Sales to 'Grandpas,' 'A War Within' (EXCLUSIVE)

    SF Studios has scooped international sales rights to Santiago Requejo’s heartfelt comedy drama “Grandpas” and Kasper Torsting’s WWI-set Danish love drama “A War Within” in the run up to Cannes. Both films are third-party pickups. “Grandpas” is a high-profile Spanish movie starring Carlos Iglesias (“Crossing Borders”), Roberto Álvarez (“Talk to her”) and Ramón Barea (“Everybody [...]

  • 'Gemini Man' First Trailer Drops With

    Will Smith Faces Off Against Himself in Ang Lee's 'Gemini Man' Trailer

    Will Smith battles a familiar antagonist in the official trailer for Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man” — himself. Paramount Pictures and Skydance Media dropped dazzling new footage of the futuristic sci-fi drama, scored to a haunting version of “Forever Young,” that sees Smith playing an elite assassin. Things get tricky when he finds out the man [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content