Even though it’s made $100 million in the rest of the world and is based on a global bestseller, it took months for Swedish murder mystery “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” to find a U.S. distributor. The film was finally picked up earlier this month by Music Box Films, known for previously saving the French crowdpleaser “Tell No One” after other distributors passed in fear of poor returns.
In America, with few exceptions, the fact that a film is subtitled means it’s destined for the arthouse. Populist entertainment — action, romantic comedies, thrillers — has struggled to find a place and an audience. Like most blockbusters, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is guaranteed a sequel — it’s adapted from the first installment of the “Millenium” trilogy, written before author Stieg Larsson passed away in 2004. As Anne Thompson reported, the only reason an American remake hasn’t been set into motion already is because Larsson had no will, leaving his family in a legal tussle with his common-law wife.
Still, the massive international success of “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and the upcoming release of a truncated version of John Woo’s epic “Red Cliff,” which has been doing gangbusters overseas in its original two-film incarnation, got us to thinking about some of the biggest blockbusters that haven’t washed up on our shores (unless you have a region-free DVD player). Here are a few, including their trailers:
Hayao Miyazaki still rules the roost in Japan, where the legendary animator’s “Spirited Away” remains the biggest box office hit of all time with $285 million. But the biggest non-animated hit of recent years has been “Bayside Shakedown 2,” the second in a series of spinoffs from a popular cop show that aired on Fuji Television during the late ’90s. In 2003, “Shakedown 2” shook down willing audiences to the tune of approximately $160 million, not to mention the countless yen taken in by tie-in deals with instant noodle companies and Toshiba. “Bayside Shakedown 3” is in the works.
American audiences got their first real taste of loose-limbed and quick-witted comedian Dany Boon in the 2006 double dose of Patrice Leconte’s “My Best Friend” and Francis Veber’s “The Valet.” But there’s still no way to see Boon’s own effort as a writer/director, 2008’s “Welcome to the Sticks,” a comedy about a postal worker whose attempts at lobbying to relocate to more desirable Cote D’Azur outpost results in being dispatched to the rural town of Bergues. Despite its $192 million in domestic ticket sales, distributors here have balked at the French film’s distinctly Gallic sense of humor. That hasn’t stopped Will Smith’s production company from buying the rights to produce an American remake for Warner Bros. Meanwhile, Boon might raise his international profile with a winning turn in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Micmacs.”
The tough Teuonic actor Til Schweiger has flirted with international stardom, with roles in American action films like “King Arthur” and of course, as Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz in “Inglourious Basterds,” between gigs in Deutschland. But his biggest success came when he directed himself in the 2007 romantic comedy “Keinohrhasen” (“Rabbit Without Ears”), a surprise smash that took in nearly $74 million locally and has already prompted a sequel scheduled to be released later this year. Schweiger plays Ludo Decker, a tabloid reporter whose exploits at a wedding party land him 300 hours of community service, which he spends in the service of a daycare center that’s run by a woman (Nora Tschirner) he once tormented as a youth. Although the film won over audiences, not to mention several awards, the fact remains that American audiences are still less familiar with Schweiger than the guest of honor at the film’s inciting incident, heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko.