BREAKING: I’ve read about the supposed bad blood between Harvey Weinstein and Annapurna Pictures principal Megan Ellison over the subpar box office grosses of The Master. But any idea they’re not doing business together seems to be a bit crunched by a new deal they’ve just made. The Weinstein Company has acquired all rights in the U.S. and English-speaking Canadian territories from Annapurna on Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster, which premieres tonight as the opening film at the Berlin Film Festival. TWC also landed rights to Australia, New Zealand, and the UK from Wild Bunch.
The Grandmaster, written by Wong, Zou Jingzhi, and Xu Haofeng, was executive produced by Ellison (she has money in the movie), and produced by Jacky Pang and Wong. The film opened to critical praise last month in China and has just reached over $50 million at the box office there, making it the director’s highest-grossing film in his career.
I’m sure there is uneasiness between Ellison and Weinstein. In an interview I did with him at Sundance, Weinstein acknowledged their mutual disappointment over The Master and how it didn’t break out, with Ellison not coming near recouping the $35 million or so that she spent to make the film. In hindsight, Weinstein felt he could have helped by selling the more relate-able theme of the homebound warrior who’s lost and looking for something to believe in, rather than the origins of Scientology theme that stuck with the film and didn’t get a strong response.
It is an epic martial arts drama set against the tumultuous backdrop of 1930s China and inspired by the life and times of the legendary IP Man (Tony Leung), mentor to Bruce Lee. The story focuses on two kung fu masters, IP Man, and Gong Er, and as their worlds collide on the night of the Japanese invasion in 1936. The plot encompasses themes of war, family, revenge, desire, love, and memory. The all-star cast headed by Tony Leung Chiu Wa also includes Ziyi Zhang, Chang Chen, Xiao Shengyang and Song Hye Kyo as well as hundreds of Asia’s top martial artists.