Spike Lee and Michael Imperioli have worked together on countless films, so it’s no surprise that Michael will be showing up in Lee’s upcoming Oldboy remake as Josh Brolin’s barkeep friend. From what we were shown, Imperioli’s character Chucky is more of a support line for Brolin’s character, being there to help him out when all seems dark.
While I was attending the New York Comic Con this weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in a roundtable interview with Michael and a few other journalists, right before we sat down with actress Pom Klementieff and writer Mark Protosevich.
Imperioli gave us his take on Spike’s vision for this Western remake as he discussed what Michael’s character means to the story, how he interacts with Josh Brolin’s character, and what other projects he’s is working on.
Trying to get a sense of who Michael’s character is, we asked if he has a friendly connection with Josh Brolin’s main character:
Michael Imperioli: We’re friends from school days, like prep school, and we stayed in touch up until the point where he disappears. Actually, I’m one of the last people who sees him before he disappears. Then, when he resurfaces, he shows up at my bar. I own and operate a pub, and he comes in and I help him land – just try to figure out what happened. Try to get him back into society again.
Knowing this is a remake, we asked Michael if he’d seen Park Chan-Wook’s original film:
Michael Imperioli: No, I never do that kind of thing. I always think it’s better to start from scratch. I’d rather go into it completely open, no preconceptions.
In two special clips that all press members were shown, we noticed the material had been “Westernized” to a degree, so we asked him if the themes were geared specifically for US audiences:
Michael Imperioli: I don’t know if it’s necessarily America, I’d say it’s modern society in general. To me it’s about karma, and maybe that’s why there’s a Buddha in there. This guy was not a good guy, he was kind of an asshole. Does the crime deserve that kind of punishment? I don’t know. You realize that you set certain things in motion with your actions through the world, and can he redeem himself? He suffered, he did his punishment, and now can he go beyond that, rather than just pay back a debt.
Expanding upon Michael’s answer, we asked where his character stands if he knows how much of an “asshole” Josh’s character is yet still is such a good friend:
Michael Imperioli: It’s something that he tolerated. It’s ironic because I own a bar and he has a drinking problem, and that’s kind of a tricky thing. He could be a really good customer but you’re doing a disservice by serving him. They have such a history that he forgives that side of him.
Because films can sometimes be very tight, we asked if Michael had time to rehearse with Josh before filming:
Michael Imperioli: We rehearsed before production began in New Orleans, I was there for a few days, and they were there quite longer filming specific stuff that involved specific characters. That’s great, because we got to spend time together, we got to hang out, we did a little bonding, and got along really well. It was good to just delve into the script, particularly the dialogue. This was the sixth film I did with Spike [Lee], so I’m kind of used to his process, and I always look forward to that. It’s really seeing how the words come out of your mouth. Spike really encourages a lot of input, which is something that surprises a lot of people because they assume Spike runs a really tight ship, which he does, but you can be as creative as you want, and he encourages that. You can re-write dialogue and come up with new stuff, and if he doesn’t like it he’ll tell you, but he wants that kind of input, and that’s really fun.