Alfonso Cuaron Says He Wants to Make a Film in Chinese

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Alfonso Cuaron

Backstage at the inaugural China-U.S. Motion Picture Summit, the 'Gravity' director spoke of his ambition to work in the world's fastest growing major movie market.

The booming Chinese box office has captured the attention of much of the global film industry — including Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuaron.

The filmmaker was among the headline speakers at the inaugural China-U.S. Motion Picture Summit, held Friday at the sprawling Grand Epoch City resort compound on the outskirts of Beijing.

Chatting with The Hollywood Reporter backstage after his keynote discussion, Cuaron discussed how the growth of the Chinese theatrical market — which expanded 48 percent last year and is expected to surpass North America as the world's largest box office in 2017 — affects top-tier filmmakers such as himself.

"For me, the content always goes before the deals, so I don't feel much of the effect in terms of where the money comes from," he said.

"But in my specific case, I'm very intrigued about China," he added, saying: "I'm intrigued about the possibility, sometime in the future, to do a film here — but a film in Chinese. I'm fascinated by this culture."

Although market growth is what's making such things possible, Cuaron said it's the creative challenge of working in the Chinese language and storytelling tradition that would excite him.

"What's so interesting is that it's opening up new games," he said. "I think diversity is very good for contemporary cinema, and for the industry."

Cuaron said he's held talks about working in China, but so far it's still "a notion for the future." 

The China-U.S. Motion Picture Summit was developed by Dick Cook Studios, the film and TV venture founded last April by former Disney chairman Dick Cook, and Citic Guoan, a division of the state-owned Chinese conglomerate Citic Group. The one-day event was set up to foster networking and collaboration between the U.S. and Chinese film industries.

Near the end of the summit, which was produced by Los Angeles-based Winston Baker, Cook engaged Cuaron in a lively discussion on stage, in front of several hundred Chinese film industry professionals and students from the Beijing Film Academy, which was one of the event's sponsors. The veteran industry pair covered ground including Cuaron's entree into the industry ("There's a line in Goodfellas that goes, 'Ever since I remember, I wanted to be a gangster.' It's the same for me except I wanted to be a filmmaker — since I was six"), as well as the advice he would give young directors starting out today ("Find your voice... having a unique, individual voice makes things harder for you when you're starting out, because people will push back at you; but it's what pays off biggest in the end.") 

Cook also noted the diversity of Cuaron's filmography, which has spanned small independent movies (Y Tu Mama Tambien) to big-budget blockbusters (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Gravity). Cook asked, "What do you look for when you're picking a project, because you go back and forth a lot?"

"For me, film doesn't have a size, a style or category; film is film," the director replied. "I think it's very important to keep in mind that working in cinema is a language entirely its own," he added.