After a bankruptcy, a sale and a makeover, the controversial remake of “Red Dawn” will premiere later this month, closing out Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas.
The film is a remake of the 1984 action film starring Patrick Swayze, Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey, Charlie Sheen and Brad Savage as a group of Colorado teenagers (nicknamed the Wolverines) who wage a guerrilla war against invading Soviet Union forces.
In the remake, the teens are from Spokane, Wash., and are played by a new generation of heartthrobs : Chris Hemsworth (“Snow White and the Huntsman”), Josh Hutcherson (“The Hunger Games”), Adrianne Palicki (“Friday Night Lights), Josh Peck (“Drake & Josh”) and Connor Cruise (“Seven Pounds”), among others. But instead of playing to Cold War-era fears of a Soviet occupation, the screenplay called for Chinese invaders.
The film was made in 2009 for about $60 million, but MGM filed for bankruptcy before it could be released in theaters. MGM tried to sell the film after it emerged from bankruptcy, but the decision to portray China as the villain hampered efforts to find a distributor; studios worried that “Red Dawn” would offend the Chinese government and damage their ability to do business in the rapidly growing Asian market.
So the movie’s producers gave “Red Dawn” a makeover, reediting scenes and changing most of the invaders to North Koreans. The filmmakers digitally erased Chinese flags and military symbols and substituted dialogue. Economically isolated North Korea is not a market for American films, and the changes were estimated to cost less than $1 million.
“We were initially very reluctant to make any changes,” Tripp Vinson, one of the movie’s producers, told the Los Angeles Times last year. “But after careful consideration we constructed a way to make a scarier, smarter and more dangerous ‘Red Dawn’ that we believe improves the movie.”
Less than a year later, the movie was picked up by FilmDistrict, the GK Films distributor behind “Insidious” and “Drive.”
“Red Dawn” is the directorial debut for Dan Bradley, who has nearly three decades of experience coordinating stunts for big-budget action flicks, including the “Bourne” and “Spider-Man” films.
It was also a steppingstone for Hemsworth; the film was shot three years ago, before Hemsworth made a name for himself playing Marvel superhero Thor in “Thor” and “The Avengers.”
“‘Red Dawn’ was great,” Hemsworth said earlier this summer. “It was before any of this happened. It was an opportunity to work and play a lead and get some real experience in the field.”
John Milius, who directed and co-wrote the original, was less enthusiastic about the remake.
“I think it’s a stupid thing to do. The movie is not very old,” Milius told the Los Angeles Times in 2010. “No one wants their movie remade, especially when the movies take on a life of their own.”
“Red Dawn” is slated to hit theaters Nov. 21. Its Fantastic Fest world premiere at the Alamo Drafthouse will be accompanied by a “Korean-invasion-themed” party at the Austin American Legion, according to representatives of the genre film festival.
Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie” and the Dolph-Lundgren-starring “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning” are also premiering at the festival, which runs Sept. 20-27, along with screenings of “Looper,” “Dredd 3D” and “Sinister.”
— Noelene Clark
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