• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

Gong Li to star in Chinese 'What Women Want'

Actress to play opposite Andy Lau in remake of hit 2000 film

BEIJING -- Gong Li will star in Chen Daming's Chinese remake of the romantic comedy "What Women Want" with Andy Lau.

Gong, who next appears opposite John Cusack in the Weinstein Co.'s upcoming World War II thriller "Shanghai," is one of the most globally recognized Chinese actresses.

She won the "Women" role over the much younger Fan Bingbing, who in March was reported to have joined the cast. Gong will play the creative director at a Beijing advertising firm run by a chauvinistic (and mind-reading) Lau. Gong's manager Christophe Tseng told The Hollywood Reporter that the contract was likely to be signed in a few days.

Chen, who adapted the original script by Nancy Meyers from the hit 2000 Paramount film starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt, said Gong is a natural for the lead.

"I wanted to bring more strength out in the woman character to reflect what's happening in China," said Chen, an actor who most recently directed 2006's "One Foot Off the Ground." "Chinese women are leading giant businesses today and winning most of our Olympic gold. Gong Li has the presence to convey this strength."

Fan, who starred opposite Lau in "Future X-cops" (2009) and "Battle of Wits" (2006), is "too young," Chen said. "Seeing her again opposite Andy wouldn't be fresh. Gong Li brings something fresh."

Both actresses are highly visibly sponsors of cosmetic products targeting China's newly ascendant middle-class woman.

The picture, budgeted at $5 million, was set to begin filming Tuesday in the central business district of Beijing, producer Dede Nickerson said.

Beijing-based advertising agency DMG is working with Bona International Film Group the production and distribution giant bankrolling "Women," to secure product placement to offset some of the budget.

Producing are Chen and Nickerson, with Bona CEO Yu Dong executive producing. Analysts say Bona is working on plans  to take its shares public on the New York Stock Exchange later this year.

Chen hopes to deliver the film, shot mostly in downtown Beijing and on the China Film Group's Huairou soundstages, in time for a Valentine's Day release.

Bona executive Jeffrey Chan will handle overseas sales through Distribution Workshop, his Hong Kong-based outfit with Nansun Shi.

Beijing-based Nickerson, a former consultant in China for Paramount, now works with Dune Entertainment.