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Chow Yun-fat in "Once Upon a Time" [Photo: filmbusinessasia]Superstar, CHOW Yun-fat is to return to the 1930s Shanghai underworld and star in a new Once Upon a Time in Shanghai feature film.
A TV series on similar lines (pictured) blasted Chow to prominence in the early 1980s.
The film is to be directed from the second quarter of this year by Hong Kong veteran WONG Jing and will likely be produced by Infernal Affairs (2002) co-director Andrew LAU. Sammo HUNG will co-star.
Finance and distribution will be headed by NASDAQ-listed Chinese studio Bona Film Group Ltd. It will be produced on a budget of $15 million — $20 million and is likely to be presented in IMAX and standard 2-D formats.
The film project was announced by YU Dong, CEO of Bona at a meeting with financial analysts in Hong Kong.
Wong is one of Hong Kong's most skilful and prolific directors, but is chiefly known for low-brow humour and provocative stories. Once Upon A Time In Shanghai is expected to see him operate in a different register. "This is very much a dramatic thriller, not a comedy. Wong Jing enjoyed a breakthrough in Mainland China last year with the success of Treasure Inn" Bona COO Jeffrey CHAN told Film Business Asia.
(Bona is also planning to release another Wong-directed feature Princess and 7 Kung Fu Masters in mainland cinemas in June or July this year.)
"Nor is One Upon A Time a remake of the series. We have a fresh script that is closer to a biopic of Du Yuesheng," said Chan.
Operating during the warlords era, Du nicknamed 'big-eared Du', was known as one of Shanghai's most colourful gangsters. Notoriously, Du was involved in a 1927 massacre of pro-Communist trades unions. Later he was appointed by Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek to head the Opium Suppression Bureau, even though Du was himself a leading drugs smuggler.
Bona's may not be the only film on the subject. Leading art-house director WANG Quanan, whose recent White Deer Plain was his first attempt at a crossover into the commercial sphere, has also announced plans for a RMB200 million version to be produced by the Xi'an Film Studio Corp. Describing it as a 'Chinese Godfather', Wang has said he would like to assemble an international cast including the likes of Gerard Depardieu, Al Pacino and Mario Adorf.
The Once Upon A Time In Shanghai story has also been made several times for television, including notably by Hong Kong's Television Broadcasts Ltd (TVB) in 1980 (when it was known as The Bund) and 1966. The Bund raised Chow from unknown actor to instant stardom. TVB re-released an edited version of the 1980s series on DVD in 2009.
A two-parter, Lord of the East China Sea (1993), was loosely based on his Du's life and produced in 1993 by Hong Kong's Golden Harvest Entertainment Co Ltd.
A 1999 feature film with the same English title, Once Upon a Time in Shanghai (1999), was directed by PENG Xiaolian and produced by the Shanghai Film Group Corp. But it was set in the later 1948-1950 period and focused on friends who are drawn to different factions as modern China emerged from civil war.
Source: Film Business Asia
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