'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' Prequel to Film in New Zealand

Sony Pictures Classics/Courtesy of Everett Collection
Michelle Yeoh will again star in the martial arts hit prequel.

The Weinstein Co.-produced martial arts film will take advantage of the country's newly increased production incentives, as will the trilogy of "Avatar" sequels when they go into production there.

Film Auckland chairman Alex Lee has confirmed that the upcoming big-budget martial arts feature The Green Destiny -- the prequel to Ang Lee's Hong Kong hit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon -- will shoot in New Zealand, ending a quiet period for international feature productions there.

Lee told Radio New Zealand that the green light for the film, with star Michelle Yeoh reprising her role as warrior Yu Shu Lien and Donnie Yen starring as Silent Wolf, was made possible by recent changes to the country’s Large Budget Screen Production Grant subsidy, which now allows major productions to claim back up to 25 percent of their budget as rebates.

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"It's quite clear that until the decision to increase the incentives for international films to come to New Zealand we were just not competitive," Lee said.

"When this change was made, it signaled to the world that we’re open for business again,” he added.

The new incentives came into effect on April 1 and allow an automatic 20 percent baseline grant for all eligible production on all qualifying New Zealand production expenditure (QNZPE) and an additional 5 percent grant for a smaller number of film and TV productions that meet a significant economic benefits points test

The last major studio features to be shot in New Zealand were Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy, while the country is prepping for the Avatar trilogy to go into production soon. 21st Century Fox said the new Avatar films would take advantage of the new incentives when they were announced in December. Avatar director James Cameron said earlier this month that the scripts would be ready in six weeks. Cameron also owns a home in New Zealand. 

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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, released in 2000, won four Oscars including best foreign film in 2001 and earned $213.5 million at the global box office. It also launched the Hollywood career of director Ang Lee. Lee, however won’t be directing the prequel. That’s being done by Yuen Woo-ping, who coordinated the action scenes in the original, from a script that has been approved by censorship officials in Beijing. Production on the film is due to start in July. Shooting will take place in New Zealand and China.

The screenplay is based on Iron Knight, Silver Vase by Wang Du Lu, book five in the Crane-Iron Pentalogy -- on which the first Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was based.

The Weinstein Co. is co-producing The Green Destiny with New Zealand's Iron Knight Productions.