Cannes: Before Action Starts On ‘Crouching Tiger 2,’ Harvey Weinstein Woos Donnie Yen And Yuen Wo Ping For ‘Seven Samurai’
Deadline’s Mike Fleming reported several months back that The Weinstein Company was setting a production start in Asia on a sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Here’s the official release that just dropped confirming Crouching Dragon Hidden Tiger II — The Green Destiny and that Yuen Wo Ping, the legendary fight choreographer responsible from the high-wire action work in the original pic, will direct this one. He and sequel writer John Fusco worked together on The Forbidden Kingdom. Here’s the release:
New York, NY (May 16, 2013) – The Weinstein Company (TWC) announced today production of CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON II – THE GREEN DESTINY will begin in March 2014 in Asia. Yuen Wo Ping is set to direct with Donnie Yen starring as Silent Wolf and Michelle Yeoh reprising her role as Yu Shu Lien. The screenplay is based on IRON KNIGHT, SILVER VASE by Wang Du Lu, book 5 in the CRANE-IRON PENTALOGY series, on which the original CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON was based. The screenplay is written by John Fusco (FORBIDDEN KINGDOM, HIDALGO, SPIRIT) and will be produced by Harvey Weinstein and David Thwaites, co-produced by Johnny Levin with Executive Producer Anthony Wong. Yucaipa Films is co-financing the project.
When it comes to Oscar savvy we often hear Harvey Weinstein talked about as the kingpin of the game, but when you look at the success of Sony Pictures Classics you realize it rivals Weinstein, Searchlight, Focus and other comers in consistently, and annually, releasing and nurturing one contender after another in the quest for the elusive statuette of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Since the company was founded in December 1991, key to its success has been its co-Presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard who first worked together in similar specialty divisions at United Artists and Orion and now continue to run one of the most stable indie shops in the industry. But with a total of 25 Oscar wins and 109 nominations just at SPC they clearly have the Midas touch, and that includes a slew of Best Picture nominations for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (their biggest hit to date), Howard’s End, Capote, An Education, Midnight In Paris and this year’s Amour which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes and has amassed five Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film, only the fifth film in Academy history to be named in both categories. With writing and directing nods for Michael Haneke as well as a realistic Best Actress bid for star Emmanuelle Riva the film looks to be another strong contender for the pair who continue to be one of the few high profile companies that still champions foreign language films. SPC serves up a wide variety of specialty fare of all types and always seems to find a footing in the Oscar race which has become an important part of their business plan. With two contenders for Best Documentary and two for Best Foreign Language Film in addition to the Best Picture bid, the pair are fixtures at every major film festival and are once again making lots of noise in their high season. I spoke to both late last week about the upcoming Oscars and what it means to their bottom line.
Deadline: How important is this Oscar business to the actual business of Sony Pictures Classics?
Bernard: It’s part of the business for Sony Pictures Classics because we can get movies, or have movies, that won’t get the recognition that they deserve any other way. And if they get that recognition what we have found is that the boxoffice and ancillary and profits of these movies get much better. We can go all the way back to Camille Claudel when we had Isabelle Adjani and somebody close to her suggested that you should run a campaign for her for Best Actress and we said ‘it will never happen, no one will watch the movie. We can’t get them to the theatre. And the person said ‘well why don’t you send out VHS cassettes to the Academy’ so we did and sent them to the actors branch and lo and behold we got a nomination. And it took that movie to a level it would have never gotten if it didn’t happen.
EXCLUSIVE: The Weinstein Company has set a May production start in Asia on a sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. There is a script by John Fusco, and TWC is in talks with veteran Chinese director Ronny Yu. Harvey Weinstein is producing.
The new film is derived from the same source material as the Ang Lee-directed 2000 film that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and three other Academy Awards. Lee isn’t involved in this one, which is based on Silver Vase, Iron Knight. That is the fifth book in the Crane-Iron Pentalogy by Wang Du Lu. Crouching Tiger was the fourth book in the series. Fusco, whose credits include Spirit, Hidalgo and The Forbidden Kingdom, is an avid follower of Wu Sia, the centuries-old genre of Chinese fiction that this series is part of.
The sequel continues to revolve around Yu Shu Lien, the character played in the original by Michelle Yeoh. It’s not immediately clear yet which actors will reprise, but some likely will. “This introduces a new generation of star-crossed lovers, and a new series of antagonists in a battle of good and evil. It has a Knights Errant quality. There is an alternate universe in the books, a martial forest that exists alongside the real world, full of wandering sword fighters, medicine men, defrocked priests, poets, sorcerers and Shaolin renegades. It’s so vast and rich, and I found characters from the second and third books in the series to create a most interesting stew while being as true to the source material as I could be.”
TWC and Sony had battled several years ago over the rights to the books left behind by the author, who died in 1977. Reports quoted his son, Hong Wang, saying his family made very little money from the original film, and that they went out to make another deal. TWC feels it walked away with those theatrical rights and is going ahead with its film, which has a budget north of $20 million.