Chow touts effects in sci-fi pic 'CJ7'


HONG KONG -- Actor-director Stephen Chow's "CJ7" will showcase locally produced state-of-the-art digital effects "up to international standards that will withstand comparison," Chow said at a press conference Monday.

"CJ7" marked the first time a Chinese production features an entirely digitally produced creature. While the effects-laden comedy has a reported cost of HK$156 million (US$20 million), Chow was reluctant to name the exact figure, only calling the film "the most expensive in my career."

Most of the budget was spent on digital animation and special effects, created by the Hong Kong visual effects house Menfond Electronic Art, whose credits include "The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D."

Always elusive, Chow also deflected the inquiries about projected boxoffice take with jokes, saying he expected the film to earn "as much as possible."

A sci-fi comedy about how the sudden arrival of a strange new pet shakes the lives of a poor laborer father and his young son, "CJ7" is the second collaboration between Chow's Star Overseas and Sony Pictures Entertainment since "Kung Fu Hustle." China Film Group was also behind both films.

"Kung Fu Hustle" broke boxoffice records across Asia and grossed more than $100 million worldwide in 2004.

Chow -- who wrote, directed, produced and starred in the film -- admitted he drew heavy inspiration from Steven Spielberg's "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" for "CJ7," in which the title character was an alien in the shape of a dog. As a young man, he went to see "E.T." repeatedly, amazed by the mix of familial tenderness and sci-fi. For his own foray into the sci-fi genre, "only draw references from "E.T." would be enough, wouldn't it?" he asked.

"CJ7" is predicted to be the biggest blockbuster of the Chinese New Year season, the only competition being "Kung Fu Dunk" starring Taiwanese heartthrob Jay Chou, scheduled a week after "CJ7" opens.

Last month, Hollywood actor Will Smith met with Chow to discuss collaboration possibilities while in town to promote "I Am Legend."

Reports said Smith invited Chow to direct, produce or star in a remake of '80s martial arts hit "The Karate Kid," while Chow asked Smith to star in the "Lord of the Rings"-style adaptation of the Chinese literary classic "The Journey to the West," with a reported budget of $100 million.

"CJ7" will open Jan. 31 in China and Hong Kong. It is distributed by Sony Pictures Classics in the U.S., scheduled for March 7.