Cof­fin lid could slam on vam­pire film re­make

Fan back­lash, then stu­dio woes be­set ‘Let me in’

Austin American-Statesman - - MOVIES & LIFE - By Steven Zeitchik

With “The Twi­light Saga: Eclipse” top­ping $200 mil­lion at the do­mes­tic box of­fice, you’d think it would be easy to roll out a movie about a young vam­pire in love. But “Let Me In,” the English-lan­guage re­make of the cult hit “Let the Right One In,” is find­ing it­self in a sit­u­a­tion more fraught than Count Drac­ula at an af­ter­noon blood drive.

To­mas Al­fred­son’s Swedish-lan­guage orig­i­nal, based on a script and novel by John Aj­vide Lindqvist, told the story of a pre­teen loner named Oskar and his ten­der friend­ship with the odd­ball, sex­u­ally am­bigu­ous Eli, who is re­vealed to be a vam­pire. With its care­fully paced nar­ra­tive, Gothic mood and metaphor for ado­les­cent sex­u­al­ity, the film at­tracted a cadre of Amer­i­can fans and the at­ten­tion of both sales agent/pro­ducer Ham­mer Films and dis­trib­u­tor Over­ture Films.

The com­pa­nies de­cided to co-fi­nance a re­make, cast­ing hot up-and-com­ing ac­tors in­clud­ing Chloe Moretz (“Kick-Ass,” “(500) Days of Sum­mer”) and sched­ul­ing an Oct. 1 re­lease.

But the project al­most im­me­di­ately met with an In­ter­net back­lash. Fans first ob­jected to the gen­eral idea of the re­make and then to spe­cific choices, like the de­ci­sion to shoot in New Mex­ico, which devo­tees per­ceived as not frigid enough to stand in for the win­try Stock­holm sub­urbs of the orig­i­nal.

Film­mak­ers have done their best to defuse the skep­ti­cism, opt­ing, for ex­am­ple, not to age the char­ac­ters into their later teens in a bid to pig­gy­back on the suc­cess of Sum­mit En­ter­tain­ment’s “Twi­light” se­ries. They also point out that, con­trary to Hollywood’s pen­chant to re­make megahits, a “Let the One Right In” reimag­in­ing was nec­es­sary if a main­stream au­di­ence was to dis­cover the story.

“We’re in­cred­i­bly ad­mir­ing of the orig­i­nal,” says pro­ducer Donna Gigliotti, “but to be hon­est with you, that pic­ture grossed $2 mil­lion. It’s not like we’re re­mak­ing ‘Lawrence of Ara­bia.’”

A new wrin­kle, how­ever, re­cently emerged when Over­ture par­ent com­pany Though cre­ators of the re­make opted not to raise the age of char­ac­ters such as Eli (Lina Le­an­der­s­son, above, in the orig­i­nal ‘Let the Right One In’), fans still howled. Lib­erty Me­dia an­nounced that Over­ture’s top ex­ec­u­tives and co-founders, Chris McGurk and Danny Rosett, would be leav­ing the com­pany. Over­ture had been on the sales block for months as Lib­erty’s John Malone looked to exit the film busi­ness. Chris Al­brecht, the head of Over­ture sis­ter com­pany Starz, was named to over­see the film di­vi­sion.

All these moves threw into ques­tion the fates of three up­com­ing re­leases, most no­tably “Let Me In,” which had been set to roll out on at least 1,200 screens.

Sources fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion say that there is se­ri­ous fear — and a real pos­si­bil­ity — that with new man­age­ment and a spirit of heavy cost-cut­ting at Over­ture, the movie’s re­lease could get downsized. In that sce­nario, the num­ber of screens and mar­ket­ing bud­get would be dras­ti­cally cut, lim­it­ing its com­mer­cial reach. (It’s worth not­ing that Al­brecht demon­strated an affin­ity for vam­pires dur­ing his time at HBO — he was in­stru­men­tal in de­vel­op­ing the net­work’s hit se­ries “True Blood,” part of the cur­rent vam­pire craze.)

There’s also the pos­si­bil­ity that the movie could go to an­other stu­dio. Sources con­firm that there have been pre­lim­i­nary dis­cus­sions among some of the “Let Me In” fi­nanciers to try to take the pic­ture else­where, but that move likely would in­volve le­gal wran­gling — and in any event would re­quire a will­ing dis­trib­u­tor to step in. “It’s a very ripe ti­tle, but who out there is pick­ing it up?” said one film dis­tri­bu­tion vet­eran. “One of the only vi­able com­pa­nies is Sum­mit, and they kind of have a lit­tle vam­pire fran­chise.”

An Over­ture rep­re­sen­ta­tive de­clined to com­ment on the sta­tus of “Let Me In” but did say that the com­pany is mov­ing for­ward with plans to re­lease all three up­com­ing projects, in­clud­ing the vam­pire re­make. Pro­ducer Gigliotti said that Over­ture is “say­ing all the right things.”

At Comic-Con In­ter­na­tional in San Diego this month, Over­ture is mak­ing a full-court pub­lic­ity push for “Let Me In.” Stars Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Richard Jenk­ins will present the film with di­rec­tor Matt Reeves.

Pub­licly, ev­ery­one as­so­ci­ated with “Let Me In” is main­tain­ing their game face. But per­haps fit­tingly for a vam­pire movie, be­hind closed doors, the fears re­main.

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