‘The Sympathizer’ Director Park Chan-wook Explains Episode 4’s Big Change From the Book SuperNayr

Note: This story contains spoilers ahead from “The Sympathizer” Episode 4.

Sunday’s episode of “The Sympathizer” saw The Captain (Hoa Xuande) go to work as an interpreter on auteur Nikos’ (Robert Downey Jr.) film about the Vietnam War.

Co-showrunner Park Chan-wook revealed in an interview with TheWrap that one key change that the series made from Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pultizer Prize-winning source material was moving the location of the film’s set from the Philippines to California.

“I think in the original novel, because it’s inspired by ‘Apocalypse Now,’ they changed the Philippines into Vietnam. But because of the financial restraints, we set this in California and changed that into Vietnam for this movie set,” Chan-wook said. “I think in hindsight, it turned out better in terms of our creative aspect… we were able to bring in our secondary characters into our story to have them play the background actors in this ‘Hamlet’ story. So there were some things that we had to forfeit, but at the same time, I think there was much more to gain from changing this part of the story.”

Star Fred Nguyen Khan, who plays Bon, revealed that the character was not originally included in the making of “Hamlet” in the novel. But he emphasized that Bon’s inclusion in “Hamlet” in the HBO adaptation ultimately allowed him to find an outlet to cope with the death of his wife and child in Episode 1.

“It’s very therapeutic in a really weird but also wholesome way,” Khan told TheWrap.

In addition to his stunt work in episode 4, Khan recalled receiving praise from Chan-wook during filming of the Major’s death in Episode 3, in which Bon intervenes when The Captain struggles to kill him.

“It was very fun for me to shoot a fight scene and Director Park has arguably created one of the most influential fight scenes of all time in ‘Oldboy.’ So for me, it was just a bucket list thing,” he said. “I got to that fight scene with the Major’s stunt double. His name is Simon Rhee, who is a legend in the martial arts community and also in the stunts community. And it was so smooth because he’s a professional, he’s such a good dance partner and he was literally like ‘whatever you do, I’ll just adapt to it.’ So it really made my job so much easier. And afterwards when the fighting was done, I got [a pat on the shoulder] from Director Park and I’m like, ‘I’m good to retire.’ “

“The Sympathizer” is a coproduction between HBO, A24 and Rhombus Media, produced in association with Cinetic Media and Moho Film. Chan-wook executive produces alongside co-showrunner Don McKellar, Robert Downey Jr. and Team Downey’s Susan Downey and Amanda Burrell.

New episodes air Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and stream on Max.

The Sympathizer

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