Zhang Yimou will replace Ed Zwick to direct The Great Wall, the China-set epic that Legendary Pictures principal Thomas Tull has been trying to mount for the past several years through his Legendary East division. The film, scripted by Carlo Bernard and Doug Miro, was going to shoot last year and give Legendary a foothold into the China market. Zwick went as far as casting Henry Cavill and Benjaman Walker, but it didn’t get over the wall that time. Legendary East was recalibrated in a joint venture with China Film Company, and they’re trying again with the Raise The Red Lantern helmer.
This marks the 12th film from Chinese director Zhang Yimou to be distributed in the U.S. by Sony Pictures Classics. The negotiations were one of the worst-kept secrets at the Berlin Film Festival. The studio made it official today, a day after Zhang signed on to helm Universal’s adaptation of the Robert Ludlum novel The Parsifal Mosaic. Here’s the release:
NEW YORK (February 18, 2014) – Sony Pictures Classics announced today that they have acquired all rights in North America, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand to Zhang Yimou’s COMING HOME starring Gong Li. The film, currently in post-production, is produced by Bill Kong and LeVision Pictures’ Zhang Zhao. Lava Bear Films’ David Linde executive produced.
Inspired by Yan Geling’s “THE CRIMINAL LU YANSHI with a screenplay written by Jingshi Zou, COMING HOME is a romance drama chronicling the journey of a Chinese dissident (Chen Daoming) from the 1920′s to the 1990′s.
EXCLUSIVE: What’s a Robert Ludlum thriller without an unexpected plot twist? How about Universal Pictures setting Zhang Yimou to direct The Parsifal Mosaic, the Ludlum bestseller that Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard are producing with Captivate’s Jeffrey Weiner and Ben Smith? I’m told this is the first time that a mainland Chinese director has signed to do an English-language film with a film studio in the U.S. That was the goal when, in May 2012, CAA signed the filmmaker whose film Ju Dou became the first Chinese feature to be nominated for an Oscar, and who also directed the dazzling Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It is not clear yet whether this will be his first Hollywood film or not because he has other irons in the fire. Zhang’s films include the BAFTA-winning Raise The Red Lantern, Hero, House Of Flying Daggers and the Christian Bale starrer Flowers Of War. His latest film, Coming Home, is in the process of being acquired out of Berlin by Sony Pictures Classics, which releases most of Zhang’s Chinese films.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Chinese Valentine’s Day A Boxoffice Smash; Zhang Yimou-Gong Li Reunion Rumored; More
Chinese Couples Turn Out In Droves For Valentine’s Day
Chinese Valentine’s Day was a big box office draw for couples, FilmBiz Asia reports. The Tuesday holiday set a record with $22.9M in takings. That was largely down to three films: Pacific Rim, which added $5.74M; sequel Tiny Times 2 with an extra $5.6M: and Fan Bing ringing up a further $4.7M in One Night Surprise. The films were up 81%, 105% and 156%, respectively, compared with Monday, FBA said.
Zhang Yimou Eyeing Screen Reunion With Gong Li?
Also in China, veteran director Zhang Yimou is tipped to be prepping a reteam with actress Gong Li. During a financial conference this week, Le Vision Pictures CEO Zhang Zhao reportedly said the director will shoot Return, “a Cultural Revolution story,” in the fourth quarter of the year. “He has made commercial films for 10 years, and has got fed up. Now he wants to come back to make art house film and collaborate with Gong Li,” the executive reportedly said. According to local media, Return is an adaption of Yan Geling’s novel, The Criminal Lu Yanshi. Geling wrote the source material for Zhang’s Flowers Of War and also collaborated on the script. The director and actress worked together on numerous films including Curse of the Golden Flower, Raise the Red Lantern, The Story of Qiu Ju, and Red Sorghum.
Zhang Yimou today announced a partnership with Beijing-based production company Le Vision Pictures to make movies for theaters and the Internet. The long-term, exclusive deal puts to rest widespread speculation within the Chinese film industry about where Zhang – who oversaw the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics — would land after being courted by numerous companies. He had been seeking a new production and financing partner since a bitter falling-out nearly a year ago with his longtime friend and producer, Zhang Weiping, and Beijing New Picture Film Company.
Keshet International, Northern Pictures Form Keshet Australia
Keshet International has entered into a joint venture with David Haslingden’s Northern Pictures to form Keshet Australia. The global distribution and production arm of Keshet Media Group and Australia’s Northern Pictures signed a joint venture to bring Keshet’s slate of scripted and unscripted formats to Australian and New Zealand. Under the deal, Northern will have the rights to over 50 Keshet International properties, to be produced in the territory under the Keshet Australia banner.
Global Showbiz Briefs: New Wave Acquires ‘Winter Of Discontent’, Ted Shapiro Exits MPA Europe, Nobel Laureate’s Film Ties
New Wave Has ‘Winter Of Discontent’
New Wave Films has acquired Egypt’s Winter Of Discontent for the UK and Ireland. Swipe Films is handling international sales on Ibrahim El Batout’s drama that debuted in Venice last month. It’s set against the backdrop of the 2011 Tahrir Square protests. The film also has a berth at the London Film Festival which is currently underway. Salmon Fishing In The Yemen actor Amr Waked stars in Winter Of Discontent and also produced via his Zad Communication. The deal was negotiated by Robert Beeson of New Wave and Frank Mannion of Swipe.
Ted Shapiro Leaves MPA Europe For Copyright-Focused Law Firm
UK media law firm Wiggin is opening a Brussels office specifically designed to advise on pan-European copyright issues. The Motion Picture Association’s head of legal for Europe, Ted Shapiro, will leave the lobby group to run the new Wiggin office. The office will open in January and the team will also support Incopro Ltd, Wiggin’s partnership between its content protection practice and former Warner Bros and NBCUniversal exec Bret Boivin, which offers technology and legal advice. Shapiro started as an intern at the MPA over 16 years ago, rising to become an expert in his field and espousing “peace, love and copyright!” Wiggins’ clients include BBC Worldwide, Condé Nast, Discovery, Disney, Endemol, HBO, Ingenious, ITV, Paramount Pictures, Sony Columbia, Time Warner Books, Times Newspapers, Turf TV, Twentieth Century Fox, UEFA, UKTV, Universal, Virgin Media and Warner Bros.
EXCLUSIVE: As CAA continues to bolster its presence in China, the agency has added one of the country’s premier filmmakers to the client roster. It has signed Zhang Yimou, whose film Ju Dou became the first Chinese feature to be nominated for an Oscar, and who also directed the dazzling opening ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The agency will rep his Chinese films, and bring him into the Hollywood fold as well.
His films include the BAFTA-winning Raise The Red Lantern, Hero, House Of Flying Daggers and most recently the Christian Bale-starrer Flowers Of War. The filmmaker continues to be managed by Mo Zhang and Catherine Pang in China.
Los Angeles, CA (November 7, 2011) — Chris Ball, President and CEO of LA-based film production and distribution company Wrekin Hill Entertainment, announced today that his company, in association with Row 1 Productions, have acquired theNorth American distribution rights to award-winning Chinese director Zhang Yimou’s (Raise the Red Lantern, Hero) and producer Zhang Weiping’s THE FLOWERS OF WAR starring Academy Award® winning actor Christian Bale (The Fighter, The Dark Knight). The film has been selected as this year’s official foreign language entry for China at the Academy Awards. Wrekin Hill, in association with Row 1, will open the film in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco in late December 2011 and the film will then expand through early 2012.
THE FLOWERS OF WAR will have a wide release in China on December 16th following three premiere events in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Based on a screenplay by Heng Liu (The Story of Qiu Ju), THE FLOWERS OF WAR is adapted from Geling Yan’s historical novel 13 Flowers of Nanjing. The film is a work of historical fiction set against the backdrop of the Rape of Nanking, a brutal chapter in the Sino-Japanese War, which was a significant event in Chinese history. Produced and fully financed by Zhang Weiping under his New Pictures Film banner, THE FLOWERS OF WAR is inspired by true life events, and tells a genuine story of hope, love and sacrifice.
Toronto: Buyers Get First Look At Christian Bale-Starrer ‘Heroes Of Nanking’, Now Titled ‘The Flowers Of War’
Buyers at the Toronto Film Festival got their first look today at Zhang Yimou’s The Flowers of War, which previously was known as Heroes of Nanking. The true-life drama stars Christian Bale and is set against the backdrop of the 1937 Nanking Massacre, when Japan’s army overran China’s capital city. An American (Bale) trapped amidst the chaos of battle and the ensuing occupation takes shelter in a church, joined by a group of schoolgirls and 13 courtesans, and helps lead the group to fight back. Zhang Weiping is producing and David Linde and Chaoying Deng are exec producing. About 20 minutes was shown to circling buyers and the press this morning, but it will be an interesting project to take on: The film is about 60% Mandarin-language and 40% in English. The film will have its world premiere in Beijing on Dec. 16. FilmNation Entertainment is handling international sales outside the U.S., China, and a few major Asian countries; North American rights will be licensed directly by New Pictures Films and producers Deng and Linde and Stephen Saltzman of Loeb & Loeb.
Last year’s Toronto Film Festival started slow for acquisitions, but finished with a flurry of modest distribution deals that served notice the specialty film business had finally pulled out of its nosedive. This year’s festival hasn’t started and already there are fireworks. Deadline broke news yesterday that Harvey Weinstein would start a VOD business, making the acquisitions market for fringe films more competitive; and last night, I heard that a bidding battle had already broken out for the Steve McQueen-directed Shame, which should be sold by the time it screens Sunday. Fox Searchlight is the favorite, Sony Pictures Classics is in the mix and I’ve heard that The Weinstein Company is hovering. Bidding began right after its Telluride screening, and the mid-six figures thrown around yesterday will probably go higher. That’s huge, considering the movie is an unabashed NC-17, McQueen has final cut, and the sex-obsessed protagonist is unlikable. Oh, yeah, and the sellers want it released this year for Oscar consideration to capitalize on Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan’s Oscar-caliber performances.
Does this mean we’re in for a drunken buying frenzy? Hardly, buyers tell me. They are eager to see the films, but say there’s no title here that’s going to guarantee somebody will overpay. They are also mindful that many of last year’s deals turned out to be box office busts. More deals will be made than …