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Weinstein's 'Shanghai' finally bows in Beijing

Cusack-Gong thriller delayed almost two years

BEIJING -- The Weinstein Co.'s first Asian production "Shanghai" got its long-delayed premiere Thursday night, almost two years after wrapping in Thailand and the U.K.
 
Producer Harvey Weinstein said the film was "like 'Casablanca,' an old-fashioned thriller, a great love story," at an afternoon press conference ahead of the evening world premiere at the National Political Consultative Conference Assembly Hall in western Beijing.
 
Starring John Cusack, Gong Li, Chow Yun-fat and Ken Watanabe, the Mikael Hafstrom-directed film was first delayed in March 2008 when it was refused a shooting permit for Shanghai, and had to move production to Thailand instead. It then languished before receiving distribution approval in China last month, with Huayi Brothers handling a June 17 wide release date.
 
Weinstein said the idea for the film came from one of its producers, Mike Medavoy, who was born in Shanghai in 1941, the same year the eponymous film is set. The story follows an American intelligence officer (Cusack) trying to track down the killer of his friend in Shanghai, just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
 
Cusack and Gong, two sides of the film's love triangle, engaged in some mutual admiration. "As an American growing up, China was a very mysterious place to me and my culture. We knew about it from some Chinese novels and some great Chinese films, including Gong Li and the films she made with Zhang Yimou. That was one of my first entrances into China and Chinese culture," said Cusack. His performance in last year's "2012" helped crown that film as China's all-time boxoffice champion, at least until "Avatar" overtook it a few months later.
 
"I was very happy but very nervous. He's very nice but very serious. The first time we met was in England. He was exceptionally kind, and we talked for quite a while. I was concerned that there might be communications problems since he is an American actor, but that wasn't any trouble at all," said Gong, who has previous experience working with American actors and filmmakers in "Miami Vice" and "Memoirs of a Geisha."
 
"Shanghai" is Cusack's second outing with Hafstrom, having previously collaborated on thriller "1408." He has starred in several earlier Weinstein productions, including "Bullets Over Broadway" and "1408."
 
Weinstein was quick to point out that his purchase of the Zhang Yimou film "Ju Dou" for U.S. distribution on the last day of a Cannes Film Festival in the early 1990s helped to make Gong the star she is today, both in China and abroad.
 
"Shanghai" is the first fruit of a $285 million Weinstein Co. fund announced in August 2007, which planned to produce two dozen films over six years.
 
The film screens Friday in Hong Kong and at the Shanghai International Film Festival on June 13.
 
“Shanghai” does not yet have a U.S. release date but is listed among other planned 2011 releases on the Weinstein Co. Web site.