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Leaving the Riddle in the Ring
by Scott Holleran
Naomi Watts, Gore Vebinski
October 21, 2002

HOLLYWOOD (Box Office Mojo) - Ambiguity is the appeal of America's newest box office leader, The Ring, according to the filmmakers. What you see isn't necessarily what you get -- which is exactly what moved the director, writer and producers to make The Ring.

Speaking at a recent press conference in Hollywood to discuss their remake of Japan's popular horror film, Ringu, everyone from director Gore Verbinski to star Naomi Watts cited the original movie's vagueness as a plus.

"I saw the Japanese film and I liked it," said Verbinski, a former television advertising director who created the Budweiser frogs. "There was an elusive minimalism that I think was really important to keep." Verbinski, who also directed The Mexican and Mouse Hunt, is currently working on Disney's theme park film, Pirates of the Caribbean, starring Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush, which he said is scheduled for release on July 27.

The 38-year-old Oak Ridge, Tennessee, native said he responded to the Japanese movie's ambiguity and he compared The Ring to the dark fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm.

The Ring is the story of a newspaper reporter who encounters an urban legend about a videotape. When one watches the video, the telephone rings, a voice declares that the watcher will be dead in seven days, and a range of strange, mixed phenomena consumes one's senses before the last breath. Australian newcomer Naomi Watts, whose role in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive gained her notice among some critics, plays the reporter.

Producer and DreamWorks Pictures executive Walter F. Parkes, (Twister, Men in Black, Gladiator), thought Nicole Kidman's blonde best friend was perfect casting.

"When you have a high concept movie, you want to cast not for marquee but for story," said producer Parkes. "We needed someone with emotional legitimacy and intensity and there she was."

Parkes, too, was drawn into The Ring after he watched the Japanese original with his producer wife, Laurie MacDonald, who runs DreamWorks Pictures with Parkes. "We were attracted by the Asian-style ambiguity," Parkes said, adding that the couple decided to buy the remake after seeing Ringu.

While screenwriter Ehren Kruger, who wrote Arlington Road, Reindeer Games and Scream 3, welcomed the sense of uncertainty in the remake, he viewed The Ring as a traditional campfire story.

"It's the story of how it's human nature to want to do what we're told not to [like watching the forbidden video in The Ring], and [it's also about] our moral choices when our own values are at stake," the soft-spoken Kruger explained at the press conference. "You know the real kicker is going to come at the end of the story."

Well, not exactly, as several reporters pointed out during the press briefing when they asked questions about plot discrepancies.

The Ring's resolution toward the end of the film is rubbery enough for several sequels, though The Ring is more reality-based than its Japanese source, which featured a character with extra-sensory perception (ESP).

That's fine with the 29-year-old Kruger, who, when asked about studio changes to his script, answered cryptically: "I could write poetry and never have anything changed -- but I like movies."

It remains to be seen whether audiences, who put The Ring at the top spot for this week's box office, agree with Kruger's preference for leaving The Ring unexplained -- or whether they simply anticipated an intelligent mystery minus the teen scream factor.

At least one cast member, Naomi Watts, who appeared briefly to discuss The Ring, seemed to know exactly where all the plot holes might lead. When asked whether she would appear in a sequel -- the Japanese original spawned a series -- the nervous newcomer answered in an instant: "Yes."

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