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OLDBOY

The Girl, The Stranger and The Keeper
Once Joe Doucett is released, two people become central to his quest for closure: a young woman who evolves into his only real confidante in this strange new world; and an enigmatic stranger who might hold the clues to the truth behind his cruel confinement.

Taking the role of Marie Sebastian -- which takes off in a different direction from the leading female role of the Park Chan Wook film, yet still with a gut-wrenching twist -- is Elizabeth Olsen, who has garnered attention for a string of breakout dramatic roles in the last three years, including her award-winning turn as an escaping cult member in Martha Marcy May Marlene.

Marie is working as a volunteer nurse at a mobile medical unit when she first encounters Joe Doucett, shortly after his release. "Marie brings to Joe Doucett a reconnection to the human world, and to his own basic humanity," says screenwriter Mark Protosevich. "Liz came to the role with some very exciting ideas about Marie being a very strong young woman who is also very much a part of modern American society."

Despite the risks of the role, Olsen was swept up by the screenplay. "I had never seen a script that played so much with a heightened reality," she comments. "Oldboy's story has so much momentum and is so specifically bizarre - yet you believe everything, you're totally in it."

She also says she could understand right away why Marie is initially drawn to Joe, despite his bizarre behavior and even more bizarre story of persecution. "Marie has an instinctual desire to take care of people, partly because of her own self neglect," she says. "And there is a mystery to who this creature is, and what could have happened to make him so off."

Yet the more she discovers about Joe, the more the mystery deepens. Olsen says one of the thrills was working so closely with Brolin as he took on this man so unhinged by lingering questions. "Josh and I get along great but when he was Joe, he would suddenly become a lot more fragile and instinctual without any type of societal boundaries. It was really exciting for me, as Marie, to constantly be reactive to that. Then, at a certain point, Marie stops being so reactive and starts getting tougher with him, which was equally interesting," she muses.

Brolin, in turn, was highly impressed with Olsen. "What Lizzie brought was amazing," he says. "I mean she makes every word she says believable. She just has this intrinsic talent that is really fun to watch in action."

As Marie gets to know Joe, both are increasingly aware of the unknown, unsettling stranger who keeps calling Joe on the phone. Taking the key but veiled role of Adrian is Sharlto Copley, the South African actor who garnered worldwide notice with his debut in the sci-fi hit District 9 and was most recently seen in Elysium with Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. "I was introduced, like a lot of people in this world, to Sharlto with his great performance in District 9," explains Spike Lee, "and he's a wonderful actor."

Copley says coyly of his character: "He is Joe's nemesis and you hear him before you ever get to see him. Interestingly enough, when Joe comes face to face with Adrian, he doesn't even recognize him, which is another fascinating plot twist. I love that Oldboy combines this very strong theme of revenge with these clever twists. The end is so powerful that you don't want to reveal it and spoil the movie."

He was especially exhilarated to have the chance to work with Lee. "I think Spike is a real artist," he says. "While making this film you never felt like you were working on something that is a remake because he brings his own parameters. As a director, he allowed spontaneous moments to happen on camera within the structure of this very powerful revenge tale. He hones in on moments that he likes, but if he trusts you and feels that you're going the right way he will let you do your thing, which from an acting point of view is fantastic."

Also joining the main cast is Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos) as Joe's loyal friend, the local bar-owner Chucky; and French newcomer Pom Klementieff as Haeng-Bok, the woman whose unusual umbrella snaps Joe into the realization that he is actually back in the real world.

Imperioli, who has worked multiple times with Spike Lee, was intrigued by his angle on the story. "It's a very stylized story with a certain artifice about it, but Spike really brings out the character-driven realism by infusing it with all these subtle details, humor and life moments," the actor observes.

Klementieff was compelled by a role that serves as a kind of bookend to Joe Doucett's imprisonment. "I'm the last person Joe sees before being kidnapped, and then the first person he sees when he's released," she muses.

But she too could not resist jumping into the deep, dark abyss of questions that Oldboy raises. She concludes: "It's like a punch in your face when you see a movie like Oldboy that brings up these questions of morality and forces you to ask what is good and what is bad, and if something this horrible happened to me, how would I react?"

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