Nearly two decades after the death of iconic Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, Chinese producers will make a film based on his shelved script, The Mask of the Black Death.
Beijing-based studio Huayi Brothers Media Corp and Taiwan filmmaker Chen Kuo-fu's CKF Pictures announced the joint project last week.
The Mask of the Black Death is expected to hit theaters during the weeklong National Day holiday in 2020. The holiday is the other most profitable period at the Chinese box office, with Spring Festival being the first.
Kurosawa, the first Asian to win the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival for Rashomon in 1951, influenced Hollywood greats such as Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.
Originally, The Mask of the Black Death was penned for Kurosawa's second production with a former Soviet studio, after his first such coproduction, Dersu Uzala, won the Oscar for best foreign language film in 1976. Dersu Uzala was his first non-Japanese film, based on the memoir of a Russian explorer.
Kurosawa wrote the script for The Mask of the Black Death in the late 1970s but he didn't make it into a film before his death in 1998. Since then, filmmakers have wanted to make it.
The script is based on American author Edgar Allan Poe's gothic fiction The Masque of the Red Death, which was adapted for cinema by Roger Corman in 1964.
The book's story is about a prince who along with his nobles hides inside a castle to stay away from a deadly disease that's killing common people.
Wang Zhonglei, co-founder and CEO of Huayi, says he first heard of Kurosawa's script from a Chinese artist in Japan. He then visited the director's family to obtain the copyright for adaptation.
"We are feeling both fortunate and nervous," he says of the opportunity.
Chen, known for producing commercial hits, says he hopes the late Japanese master's script will boost Chinese-language movies.