Remaking a film is a tricky business for any director. The best kind of remake remains true to the spirit of the original while being unique enough to set itself apart from its predecessor. Every director has his or her own way of approaching it. Some prefer to dive into the source material and know it inside and out before attempting to remake it in their own image; others want to steer as far away as possible so as to not let what's come before influence their filmmaking.
But it's not often that a director has as uncanny a connection to a movie they're remaking as Niels Arden Oplev does to Flatliners. There is, of course, a more well-known tie to the 1990 film with Kiefer Sutherland (who played Nelson in the original) making an appearance as a different character in Oplev's remake. But that wasn't the only connection. We sat down with Oplev to discuss his reimagined story and whether or not he was a fan of Joel Schumacher's original. Oplev most certainly was—and it turns out, it was almost impossible for him not to appreciate the original Flatliners, as he had a close personal tie to the film at the time:
"Oh, yes. I saw the original back in the day. It’s very funny because one of my former girlfriends from Denmark, who was a model for Eileen Ford in New York, had a small part in the original Flatliners. She’s one of the women that Billy Baldwin has a go with. She’s actually the one that realizes he’s filming them when they’re having sex. So it’s kind of funny that there’s a whole circle with me in a sense."
For those that haven't seen the 1990 version of the film, Oplev's "has a go" comment refers to the character of Dr. Joe Hurley, played by Billy Baldwin. Joe's a hotshot doctor who starts getting cold feet at the thought of soon being married and acts out in the worst way possible. Cheating on his loyal fiancée by sleeping around with random women is bad enough, but Joe goes one awful step further and then videotapes his sexual encounters with the women without their consent.
Eventually, the guilt of his infidelity and his lies start to eat away at him. When he flatlines, it unleashes something deep within his subconscious, and the women he's wronged come back to haunt him in the form of guilt-fueled visions.
The women in his visions become increasingly accusatory, until finally one of them calls Joe out for recording them in their most intimate and vulnerable moments without their knowledge or permission. Eventually his fiancée finds the tapes in his apartment and leaves him—not for cheating on her, but for his casual disregard and lack of respect for the dozens of women whose trust he violated. It's a surprisingly forward-thinking explanation for a movie set in 1990, and Oplev's then-girlfriend was a strong thread in that subplot.
Niel's Arden Oplev's career has now come full circle, from the original 1990 film that hit theaters two years before Oplev's first credited work as a director, to him helming the 2017 studio remake. It's the fun, uncanny sort of coincidence that only seems to happen in Hollywood.
Flatliners is in theaters on Friday, September 29.