HONG KONG — Jackie Chan and Stanley Tong will produce a 30-part television series about Yuefei, one of China’s most heroic and controversial generals, now that they have secured long-sought Chinese government approval.
The JC Group China said today that it had begun early preproduction and casting for the $15 million Chinese-language project it plans to begin shooting in Beijing at the end of the year.
The series, “Yuefei,” is about the general of the Southern Song Dynasty in the 12th century A.D., who helped defend central China against invaders, but eventually was imprisoned and executed by the high court at age 39. Yuefei’s name was cleared posthumously and his story is told to Chinese children today to teach courage and tenacity.
For the last decade, attempts at getting the green light to dramatize the Yuefei story have foundered in the political bureaucracy of the lead broadcast regulator of China’s one party government, the State Administration of Radio Film and Television.
The JC Group China will work from the 30 “Yuefei” episodes it controls that were written by the late Taiwanese writer and director Ding Shan Xi (“The Story of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen”), who died in Novmeber.
“Producing Yuefei, will fulfill at least two dreams,” Jackie Chan said. “One, is that I always dreamt of playing Yuefei as an actor, I have a special feeling for this hero and it will be an honor to cast the role. The second, is a greater honor, to fulfill the dream of director Ding Shan Xi who wrote the series.”
As producers, Chan and Tong said they hope to make something unlike anything ever produced for TV in Greater China. “We will spend about 10 times as much as the average costume, martial arts drama and rival production values of international series TV like ‘Band of Brothers’ or ‘Rome’,” Tong said.
Taipei-based international distribution veteran Steve Chicorel currently is campaigning to raise the money for the series outside of China. Chicorel, who sold the Chinese language film “Treasure Hunter” starring Jay Chou into France and Germany said he hopes to land distribution pre-sales to finance production.
Noting that “Shogun,” the 1980s TV series about imperial Japan starring Richard Chamberlain, was the last popular Asia-based story in the West, Chicorel says the world is “now waking up to the fact that China and Chinese stories are important.”
Dubbing 30 hours of Chinese television could be challenging, but Chan and Tong are counting on advances in technology since the early days of clumsy kung fu film dubbing.
“When done right, today’s high tech ADR is seamless and whether German, French, Japanese, Korean, English or Hindi … we’re already in negotiations to make history and make ‘Yuefei’ the first Chinese, primetime series in these markets,” Chicorel said.