Paramount Picks Four Chinese Actors for 'Transformers 4' Roles via Reality Show
Out of tens of thousands of hopeful applicants, producers have chosen four young Chinese actors to play supporting roles in Transformers 4 in a reality TV show aired on state broadcaster CCTV's Movie Channel this weekend.
The show, called Transformers 4 Chinese Actors Talent Search Reality Show, was launched by Paramount Pictures in cooperation with Jiaflix and the China Movie Channel, aka CCTV6, in April. The contest was open to both professional and amateur actors, and it attracted more than 70,000 contestants.
The winners were Byron Li, a mainland actor and martial arts specialist who graduated from the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing, who will play a kung-fu fighter, and Candice Zhao, winner of the 35th Miss Bikini International Pageant China, who will play a "sexy goddess," according to the studio and show producers.
The other two roles were filled by Taiwanese actor Austin Lin, who has featured in various Taiwanese TV shows and movies and will play a computer geek, and Teresa Daley, who has also appeared in a number of Taiwanese movies and TV shows. She will play the character Loli.
The producers are working hard to boost the Michael Bay movie's profile in China and will be hoping it contains sufficient Chinese elements to allow it to qualify as a Sino-U.S. co-production, thereby allowing it to sidestep the Chinese import quota and also take a bigger share of box office earnings in what is now the second-biggest source of box office revenue in the world.
Two established Chinese actors Li Bingbing and Han Geng have already been cast in supporting roles in the movie, which will premiere next year.
The casting process via the TV show began in April when about 70,000 hopefuls submitted their audition videos online. The reality TV show focused on 12 shortlisted actors who had already passed two preliminary selection rounds and faced different challenges from the judges and demonstrated individual talents.
The panel of judges included Transformers producer Lorenzo DiBonaventura, Paramount's marketing and distribution chief Megan Colligan, former head of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Sid Ganis and Liang Longfei, vice manager of M1905.com, the Movie Channel's official web site.
"I want everybody to have fun," DiBonaventura told China.org.cn. "We are always looking for different ways to learn about other cultures. This is a great way to see people's passion and excitement. It allows for everybody to have fun together."
Transformers is hugely popular in China. The third installment of the franchise, Dark of the Moon, grossed $165 million in China in 2011 (out of $1.1 billion worldwide) – making China the second-biggest market for the movie after the U.S. That represented 20 percent of the film’s international gross, compared to 9 percent for a typical Paramount release in China.
Production is slated to begin later in the year, and the latest entry in Michael Bay’s blockbuster franchise is set for release on June 27, 2014.
It's the first time the government-owned CCTV 6 has worked with a Western company on the production of a major movie.