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HONG KONG – Veteran producer and top talent manager Willie Chan has established his own production shingle Kudos Films with singer-actor Juno Mak, who was freshly crowned best actor at Korea’s Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival.
Kudos Films will be launched with Let’s Go, a quirky surrealist action drama that reunites Revenge team Wong Jing-po at the helm and Juno Mak in the lead. The HK$13 million ($1.7 million), effects-laden Hong Kong production, featuring a one-armed Mak, is partly inspired by the popular early 1980s Japanese anime series Space Emperor God Sigma and those who grew up watching it, which counts Wong among them.
A big fan of Japanese anime, Wong says the film’s characters from ordinary circumstances get their sense of justice from watching the series and too much cartoons, who band together to fight general villainy. The film will showcase the series’ beloved theme song and opening sequence and Wong’s now signature violence that earned him a best director award from the 33rd Moscow International Film Festival in June. Now in post-production, the film is repped internationally by Distribution Workshop with a tentative release date of late 2011.
Kudos will keep their options open as to the number or kinds of films on its future slate. “We don’t have a definite philosophy on the kinds of films we want to make at Kudos,” Willie Chan told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview. “There are films that are obviously not going to make it through the Chinese authorities, but we might consider them, too. Or we’re looking at a love story with Stanley Kwan, who is very adept at depicting feelings.”
Mak is Kudos’s first contracted artist. The Hong Kong singer-actor met Chan two years ago and made an impression. “Apart from having very good manners, he has charm and his own style,” Chan says. “What I see in him is his enthusiasm in movie work. He’s seen more movies than I have. He was a singer when I met him, but his interest and passion for movie work means he’s a talent in film either in front of or behind the camera. But his involvement in Kudos doesn’t mean he’ll be the star in every film we make.”
As one of the shareholders, Mak says he will be the creative force behind Kudos as actor and will try his hand in screenwriting for future projects. “We’re set up to be a production company for worthy projects,” says Mak. “Willie’s connections and financing experience is the main drive of the company.” Like Mak, director Wong has also committed to Kudos, having signed a five-year three-picture deal with the company.
Also in Kudos’ pipeline is director Stanley Kwan’s To the End of Love, the 38 million Chinese yuan ($5.9 million) cinematic adaptation of bestselling Chinese author Han Han’s novel set in a highly polluted world, now in pre-production and with Mak set in the lead. Kwan and Chan have enjoyed a long working relationship since the days of the helmer’s Rouge in the 1980s.
Due to the adapted story’s sensitive nature, which Kwan describes as “a reflection on the current situation in China,” the script is going through lengthy reviews at the Chinese censors. Kwan is presently scouting locations for the shoot, trying to find suitable backdrops for the love story, where river creatures grow to gigantic proportions due to pollution. Various cities in China and Southeast Asia are probable locations for Kwan, but he is readying another project for Kudos if the censor’s approval process for To the End of Love proved too drawn out. Tentatively titled I’m Doing Fine in Hong Kong, Thank You, the film, intended to be shot entirely in Hong Kong, is inspired by an essay also by Han Han about the urbanization and wealth disparity in Shanghai. Mak will head the cast.
Mak is the first talent Willie Chan signed in more than a decade. Producer and talent manager with four decades of experience, Willie Chan most famously shepherded the career of Jackie Chan and produced scores of Chan’s action comedies, including Rumble in the Bronx and The Police Story series. Willie Chan also counts half of the top talents in the Hong Kong film industry of world renown among his former charges, including Maggie Cheung, Jackie Cheung, Cherie Chung, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Carina Lau, and Joan Chen.
“For now,” Chan says, “I’m managing Juno, but the company is also on the look out for other new talents. It takes time to spot newcomers, but I’m confident I still have what it takes to groom the next generation of stars.” Nicknamed the “champion manager,” Chan says he has plans to form a talent company with singer-actress Maria Cordero, but that is in early stages yet.
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The Green Knight