Roy Lee

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For other uses, see Roy Lee (baseball).

Roy Lee (born March 23, 1969) is an American film producer who regularly takes well known Asian films and remakes them for American audiences. Examples include The Ring and The Grudge. Lee's production company, Vertigo Entertainment, in Beverly Hills, California has a first-look deal with Warner Bros.

Early life[edit]

Roy Lee, a Korean American, was born in 1969 at Wyckoff Heights Hospital, in Brooklyn, New York, USA. His father, a doctor, and his mother, a devout Christian, had been in America for just three years and were still trying to fit in. Lee’s mother nurtured hopes that he would become a minister.[1]

Lee graduated Walter Johnson High School in 1987.[citation needed] During his undergraduate studies at George Washington University, Lee did an internship at the law firm Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson. After graduating GWU, Lee attended law school at American University Washington College of Law where he prepared for a career in corporate law.


In 1996, after graduating law school at American University and working at Fried Frank for eight months, he moved to Los Angeles and soon got a job as a “tracker” at a production company called Alphaville. Trackers monitor all the spec material being submitted around Hollywood—what's good, what's bad, what's being sent where, and when, what's selling, for how much money. At the time, trackers shared information over the phone, constantly updating each other all day in an endless cycle of calls. One of Lee's "tracker" friends, Polly Cohen Johnsen, had been updating the story department at the company where she worked, Jersey Films, and had the idea to put their tracking group online. So, Lee joined forces with Polly Johnsen and Glenn Gregory of Propaganda Films to convert their daily phone calls into an online tracking group. Then, in 1997, Lee set up an Internet bulletin board called Tracker for twenty of his friends, who logged on and rated the scripts they read, and posted all the pertinent tracker information for each.

Within six months, Lee had established twenty-five online groups for other trackers at production companies and studios all over Hollywood. Since he was the only member who belonged to every group, he had the best information. Lee’s idea changed the spec script market forever. While spec scripts and pitches continued to sell, weaker material would be dismissed more quickly, often within a single day, to the frustration of many agents. Tracking material online brought more velocity to the market, but it also brought more honesty, it allowed development execs to sift for material more effectively, and it put more pressure on agents and producers to represent better material.[1]

In 1999, Lee went to work with BenderSpink, a talent-management company owned by two of his friends, Chris Bender and JC Spink. He was charged with finding Internet content: short films that would play on personal computers.[1] Lee also created with Ed Kashiba, Scriptshark, an online method for novice screenwriters to have their scripts assessed and potentially sold to major film studios. Later, Lee sold this site to iFilm which later sold it to and is currently[when?] owned by The New York Times.

Vertigo Entertainment[edit]

After setting up numerous film projects at all the major studios, Lee left BenderSpink in the fall of 2001 and joined Doug Davison to create Vertigo Entertainment. Davison would do the follow-up work on a project after Lee had done the selling. In the beginning, Lee admits that the hardest thing was making contacts abroad.[1]

Lee later became market attuned. His pitch was simple and effective: he would explain to Asian distributors that their films would probably never sell in America because Americans hate movies with subtitles, and that they would make more money by selling the remake rights anyway. He would then assure the rights holder that his agenda would never get muddled with theirs because he was going to represent them for free (with the American studio paying his fee if the film was made). Once Lee had secured the right to negotiate for an Asian company, he would tell the studios to regard the film as a script that someone had taken the trouble to film, and that happened to have been tested and proved as a hit in its home country.[1]

Lee earned his first motion picture producing credit on Gore Verbinski’s 2002 blockbuster The Ring. He went on to produce the 2004 haunted house horror film The Grudge, which starred Sarah Michelle Gellar and was based on the 2002 Japanese film Ju-on: The Grudge, which was directed by Takashi Shimizu. The box office hit currently[when?] holds the record for the biggest horror opening weekend of all time following its October 2004 release.

The Grudge 2 was released in October 2006, starring Amber Tamblyn and Sarah Michelle Gellar, and directed by Takashi Shimizu, which topped the box office at $22 million in its opening weekend. Also in October 2006, The Departed, a crime thriller from Warner Bros., directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson, was released, grossing $27 million in its opening weekend. It was Scorsese’s biggest opening ever. The Departed later went on to win Best Picture at the 79th Academy Awards.

Currently[when?], Lee is in various stages of development and production on a number of projects, including The Strangers (starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman), Quarantine (a horror film starring Jennifer Carpenter, Jay Hernandez and Columbus Short and directed by John Dowdle), The Uninvited (a remake of a Korean horror film film, Shutter), and The Eye (starring Jessica Alba). He worked as executive producer of the Uruguay short film Ataque de Pánico! alongside Doug Davison.[2] In January 2010, it was announced that he will produce the Thriller The Voices.[3] He is also set to produce Monsterpocalypse with director Tim Burton,[4] and to produce the two-part adaptation of Stephen King's It with Cary Fukunaga as director, Chase Palmer as screenwriter, Lee, Dan Lin, Doug Davison, David Katzenberg and Seth Grahame-Smith also as producers and John Powers Middleton as executive producer. Lee, along with Lin, will be producing a Live Action Archie film. [5][6] Following the success of the Lego Movie, Warner Brothers pictures is looking to go ahead with a Minecraft Movie with Roy Lee acting as producer and will oversee production at Vertigo Studios.


Year Film Role Notes
2002 The Ring Executive producer Remake of Ring
2004 The Grudge Executive producer Remake of Ju-on: The Grudge
2005 The Ring Two Executive producer
Dark Water Executive producer Remake of Dark Water (2002)
2006 Eight Below Executive producer Remake of Nankyoku Monogatari
The Lake House Executive producer Remake of Il Mare
The Departed Executive producer Remake of Infernal Affairs
The Grudge 2 Executive producer
2007 The Invasion Executive producer Based on the novel The Body Snatchers
The Strangers Producer
2008 My Sassy Girl Producer Remake of My Sassy Girl (2001)
Shutter Producer Remake of Shutter (2004)
Quarantine Producer Remake of REC
The Eye Executive producer Remake of The Eye (2002)
The Echo Producer Remake of Sigaw (2004)
2009 The Uninvited Producer Remake of A Tale of Two Sisters
Assassination of a High School President Producer
The Grudge 3 Executive producer
2010 How to Train Your Dragon Co-producer
2011 The Roommate Producer
Abduction Producer
Quarantine 2: Terminal Producer
2012 The Woman in Black Executive producer
2013 Oldboy Producer Remake of Oldboy
Bates Motel Executive producer
2014 The Lego Movie Producer
Godzilla Producer Producer during pre-production; Legendary Pictures fired Lee and Dan Lin, with case to be settled in court.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 Co-producer
TBA It Producer Two-part remake of Stephen King's 1990 It miniseries and second adaptation of King's 1986 novel of the same name
Archie Producer
Poltergeist Producer Remake version of 1982 film
The Voices Producer Post-production
Death Note Producer Development
Adventure Time Producer Development


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