Endgame, DMG Team to Make Rian Johnson's 'Looper'

The time-travel action film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt.

BEIJING – Endgame Entertainment is teaming with Chinese co-producer DMG to make Looper, writer-director Rian Johnson’s time-travel action movie set to star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt and now, Chinese actress Xu Qing, too.

“Sixty years from now China is the leading super power and time travel has been invented,” blared a promotional video for the project screened at a Tuesday night black tie party for DMG, the Beijing-based advertising firm-turned film producer and distributor best known for its work with the National Basketball Association in China.

By working with DMG, which boasts close working ties with the state-run China Film Group, Endgame plans to shoot part of Looper in China, a move that, along with casting Xu, could help the movie skirt Beijing’s annual 20-title cap on imported films allowed to share in their own box office gross.

Getting films in to China these days is ever more important to recoup investments since China’s ticket sales shot up 64 percent in 2010 to $1.47 billion as a swelling number of newly-wealthy Chinese flocked to hundreds of new multiplex cinemas going up around the nation.

Since most of China’s so-called import quota slots go to hopeful blockbusters from big Hollywood studios – titles that exhibitors like -- DMG is working with China Film, whose chairman, Han Sanping, was in attendance Tuesday, to get its first Hollywood co-production to market.

CFG must approve every co-production and appears to have granted DMG dibs on the high-profile project as the latest step in a relationship that earlier saw DMG invest in CFG’s 2009 propaganda film Founding of a Republic.

Of Looper, which is due to start shooting in New Orleans next week, DMG CEO Dan Mintz told The Hollywood Reporter that the deal with Endgame was struck after the companies were able to agree to rewrite the script substituting China for France as a location.

“Nothing against France, but that’s been done.  We said we’d help get the film shot in China, and that’s more exciting. That’s the future,” said Mintz, a New Yorker who co-founded DMG with partners Peter Xiao, chairman, and Wu Bing, president, 18 years ago.

Neither Mintz nor Endgame’s Los Angeles-based vp for business development Christopher Chen -- also at the party Tuesday at the China International Exhibition Hall -- would reveal Looper’s budget. Chen said Engdame was its major financial backer.

The party was produced like an awards gala with a red carpet procession and quick hit celebrity interviews with the likes China’s leading actor, Ge You, offering his congratulations to DMG to be broadcast on the big screens above the stage and live on Internet portal Sohu.com.

Actress Xu, who in Founding of a Republic played Soong Ching-ling, co-chairman of the People’s Republic of China from 1968-72, was introduced to Tuesday’s roughly 300 banquet guests as the latest member of the Looper cast, in which she will play Willis’s wife.

Looper’s complicated plot involves a killer (Gordon-Levitt) who works for the mob of the future. He, along with other so-called Loopers, dispose of people sent from the future. When he recognizes one victim as his future self (Willis), he hesitates, letting the man escape.

To lend Looper a futuristic feel – and project one possible outcome of the real-life currency valuation debate ongoing between Washington and Beijing -- DMG’s design department is mocking up a futuristic Chinese note that will used as money throughout the movie, DMG’s director of international business said. Asked whose likeness would feature on the new notes, L.A.-based Daniel Postaer said: “Mao, of course.  There are some things you just don’t change.”

Endgame is a privately-funded Los Angeles-based film, TV and theater company best known for its successes with titles such as Hotel Rwanda, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and a documentary about Chinese NBA star Yao Ming, called Year of the Yao.

Ram Bergman is Looper's producer, as are Endgame's James Stern and Doug Hansen.