Cannes: Tsui Hark's 'Detective Dee' Prequel Sells Wide

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame - Movie Still - 2011
Tribeca Film Festival

"Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon," from China's Huayi Brothers has sold to France, India, Korea, Taiwan, Russia and across Southeast Asia.

Hong Kong director Tsui Hark’s Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon – the hotly anticipated prequel to the Hong Kong veteran’s 2010 smash hit, Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame – has sold to France (Wild Side) and across Asia, including India (IOF Entertainment), Middle East (Gulf Film), Thailand (IPA Asia Pacific), Philippines (Suraya Filem Production & Distribution), Korea, Russia, Hong Kong, Singpaore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan (buyers for the latter territories have not yet been disclosed).

The first Detective Dee film, an action-heavy Sherlock Holmes-style mystery set in ancient China, earned $46.9 million in the country – then a towering sum for a non-Hollywood production. It was co-produced by China’s Huayi Brothers and Hong Kong’s Film Workshop.

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The prequel is produced exclusively by Huayi Brothers, as a full Chinese production. According to several plot summaries that have circulated widely online (but haven’t yet been confirmed by Huayi), the prequel tells the story of lead character Dee Renjie’s coming-of-age enlistment in the imperial police force and his first case investigating a mysterious sea monster, before the story takes various turns involving subterfuge in the very highest reaches of the Imperial family.

Boasting the projects pan-Asian market ambitions, the cast includes Taiwanese actor Mark Chao (in the role of Dee), Hong Kong model turned actress Angelababy, Hong Kong star Carina Lau, mainland Chinese actors William Feng and Lin Gengxin, and Korean actor Kim Bum. Hong Kong mega-star Andy Lau, however, isn’t attached this time: “It’s Young Detective Dee, so we cast a young, very hot, actor; that exciting casting announcement will be made closer to the film’s release,” said a representative of Huayi Brothers.

Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon is currently in post production and will be out in 2013, according to Huayi.