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The Warrior’s Way, a fantasy-action film in which ninjas battle cowboys in America’s Badlands, was written, produced and directed in English by Koreans, stars Korean hunk Jang Dong-gun, Kate Bosworth and Tony Cox, the foul-mouthed midget from Bad Santa. It was made for about $40 million after New Zealand subsidies.
This modern, multicultural mashup would appear to some to be a shift in the career of Hollywood producer Michael Peyser.
But then again, Peyser — producer of films such as U2 3D, Woody Allen’s Purple Rose of Cairo and Speed 2 with Keanu Reeves — has a broad and active imagination, one that lately has turned East, thanks perhaps in part to the ranks of Asian students who enroll in his cinema class at USC.
“Hollywood is the fancy restaurant, but there’s no reason we can’t have branches all over the world,” said Peyser, who describes Warrior’s, the film he co-produced with Lee Joo-ick and Barrie Osborne, as being set “somewhere between Sergio Leone and Baz Lurhmann.”
Delayed by the financial downturn and then rescued by Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media, Warrior’s, from newcomer writer-director Sngmoo Lee, will get distribution on 1,500-2,000 screens across the U.S. on Dec. 3, day-and-date with its Korean premiere.
“We want the fanboys and gamers to say this is way cool,” Peyser said, noting that his 16-year-old daughter and her friends already like what they’ve seen. “The girls will love it because not only is there a girl hero, but they’ll want to go around the corner with our star Dong-gun. He’s a hunka hunka burnin’ love. A new Clint Eastwood, a new Johnny Depp.”
Jang, the Seoul-born actor who earned critics’ praise for his 2000 portrayal of a high schooler who joins the mob in Friend, speaks English well enough to be headed to L.A. for a Nov. 14 appearance at the Beverly Hilton and the Regency Westside Pavilion with co-stars Bosworth and Geoffrey Rush.
“The film’s all in English, but there’s not a lot of yappin’,” Peyser said. “You’re not lost if you don’t understand English,”
Kathy Morgan is selling Warrior’s at AFM and Relativity will spend $15 million-$20 million on P&A, Peyser said, adding that he expects Korean distributor SKT to gross at least $20 million. Warrior” will release through Alliance in Canada.
Peyser, a transplanted New Yorker and self-proclaimed 3D expert (“Unfortunately, I’m one of only 10 people in the world who really knows anything about it”), is proud to have found a way to transport his career in Hollywood around the globe to Korea and New Zealand. He next plans to spend more time in other Eastern markets where growth is strong.
This despite a disappointment in 2007 in India: Peyser, Osbourne, 3D modeler John LaBrie and FX supervisor Madhusudhanan set up Geon Studios in Bollywood only to walk away after differences with local partner Sahara Studios.
Undaunted, Peyser’s looking now at China. After a U.S.-China film summit that drew 500 guests to the Writers Guild Theater on the eve of AFM, Peyser cornered the head of the China Film Co-Production Corp. after a panel discussion that also included the former head of 20th Century Fox.
“Everybody else was trying to talk with Bill Mechanic, but I went right up to Zhang Xun and said, ‘I don’t speak Chinese, but it’s really, really nice to meet you,’ ” Peyser recalled. “Everybody should be really nice to Madame Zhang. Beyond packing the house, she’s going to be paying the bills for the next 50 years.”
Peyser expects to be in Shanghai in May — for what, exactly, he’s not quite ready to say.
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