BackArts & Culture » Film & TV » Oscar-Winning Screenwriter to Adapt Horror Flick 'Co Hau Gai' for Hollywood

Oscar-Winning Screenwriter to Adapt Horror Flick 'Co Hau Gai' for Hollywood

Geoffrey Fletcher, whose screenplay for the Lee Daniels-directed movie Precious won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2010, will adopt Vietnam's 2016 horror flick Co Hau Gai (The Housemaid).

Co Hau Gai, Vietnam’s top-grossing horror movie, was written and directed by Vietnamese-American Derek Nguyen. The remake will take the action from its original setting in French Colonial Vietnam and recast it in the American Deep South during post-Civil War Reconstruction, reports Deadline.

The original movie’s plot centered around an orphaned girl who is hired to work on a haunted French rubber plantation. When she falls in love with the plantation’s French owner, the ghost of his deceased wife returns to wreak havoc.

Jean-Michel Richaud (left) plays Captain Sebastian Laurent with Linh, the titular housemaid, played by Nhung Kate (right). Photo via ELLE.

While it contains elements familiar to many blockbuster scare flicks, one thing that sets the film apart is its incorporation of historical elements and racial dynamics. When it was first released, Nguyen told Saigoneer that “the film was inspired by the life of my grandmother, who was a housemaid during the French colonial period in Vietnam.”

As for the remake, Nguyen tells Saigoneer via email that “when I was doing research on the Vietnamese version of the script for The Housemaid, I started to realize that there were many similarities with plantation life between the indentured servants in Vietnam during the French colonial days and African American slaves in the American South. Like slaves, thousands of Vietnamese men and women worked at the French rubber plantations under debilitating and inhuman conditions. Dysentery, malaria, malnutrition, and back-breaking labor were rife. Merciless overseers systematically beat and tortured workers—many of them to death.”

The connection led Nguyen to approach his producer, Timothy Linh Bui with the idea to make an American adaptation. While Nguyen will be an executive producer and involved in the creative process of the new film, it was important to him that the director and screenwriter be African American. “I wanted an authenticity to the African American experience and decided to step back from taking the reins because I believe that there’s a specificity to the new characters that would be best served by filmmakers from their own culture," he says.

Video via YouTube channel Galaxy Cinema.

Fletcher is expected to maintain the original’s exploration of social issues. The director, who also wrote the forthcoming Trial by Fire, said: “The opportunity to reimagine this compelling story in the context of American history is incredibly exciting.”

Horror movies are increasingly popular around the world, as evidenced by Academy Award recognition recently bestowed upon Get Out and The Shape of Water. Francis Chung, VP of Global Co-Productions and Head of U.S. Production at ‎CJ Entertainment – which is financing, developing and producing the remake – acknowledged this reality: “Knowing the bar has been set so much higher in this category, we recognize the necessity of allowing an extremely gifted writer like Geoffrey Fletcher take the reins to craft a compelling new version of the story.”

Before the new adaption comes out, Nguyen’s original will see another run in theatres, this time in North America beginning February 16th through a distribution deal with IFC. The re-release will bring its total reach to 19 territories. Nguyen isn’t sure how Western audiences will react to the film, but he’s been told it is “a true hybrid of Western and Eastern aesthetics,” and is excited to see the response.

In the meantime, Nguyen is staying busy. He is currently working on a new script that’s set in the US that he hopes to direct and produce a film called I’m Not Down by A. Sayeeda Moreno. He also works at Gamechanger Films, which is a film fund that finances narrative feature films directed by women and serves as a consultant for the Tribeca Film Institute.

[Top photo courtesy of CGV]

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