Filmart 2012: Pang Brothers to Unleash 'Inferno' (Exclusive)

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Hong Kong-based Universe Films will back effects-heavy 3D disaster epic.

HONG KONG - Universe Films will back the $18 million 3D disaster film Inferno by Hong Kong genre specialists Oxide and Danny Pang. The Pangs were the first filmmakers in Hong Kong to venture into the 3D arena with The Child’s Eye 3D in 2010 and followed that with Sleepwalker the next year.

The Pang twins will direct an ensemble cast led by LauChing-wan and Louis Koo, who will reunite after starring in 2009’s Overheard and its 2011 sequel, with the former playing a firefighter. Frequent Pang star Angelica Lee also will join the cast.

Filmart: What You Need to Know About the Hong Kong Event

Scheduled to begin filming in mid 2012 for release at the end of 2013, the film is described by the producers as the first of its kind. “There is yet to be a fire disaster film in 3D made anywhere in the world, we have the courage to try,” said producer and Universe COO Alvin Lam. “But to depict a convincing conflagration demands careful coordination and a lot of special effects, so the budget has to be carefully considered.”

Set in a commercial building in a major city in contemporary China, the film will feature multiple interweaving storylines involving both firefighters and those affected by the blaze. Universe is looking for co-producing partners in China and has already gained approval from the Chinese government officials. “The authorities are very supportive of the script’s portrayal of the heroism of firefighters to avert a disaster,” Lam said.

Hong Kong effects house Fatface, a longtime Pang brothers collaborator, is in charge of postproduction and visual effects.

“Technology helps us to create a safer environment for the actors,” added Lam. “There will be a real blaze on set so that the actors will know how to react, but the majority of the flames will be added in postproduction. We’d want to keep the actors safe, so there won’t be flames right under their noses, and we won’t ask them to run through real fires.”

Despite a slew of 3D films emerging in the past couple of years, there is still debate about the box office appeal of the format. Lam has his own take. “If the film is done with heart and a seriousness in production, it’s definitely worth the effort and the extra cost,: he said. "The technology is improving, and recent 3D films from this region, for example Tsui Hark’s The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, were visually spectacular.”

Before Inferno begins shooting, Oxide Pang will fly solo to helm detective drama The Conspirators, a $5 million action film based on the characters in his The Detective and its sequel. The film, a murder mystery about drug cartels, will be shot on location in Malaysia and China and stars Aaron Kwok (The Storm Warriors, After This Our Exile) and Nick Cheung (The Stool Pigeon, Beast Stalker).

Also in the works for Hong Kong-based Universe Films is an untitled Benny Chan cop drama set for the end of 2013 as well as the sequel to the 2002 romantic comedy My Wife Is 18 to mark the 10th anniversary of the first film. The sequel will chronicle the dissolution of the marriage between onscreen couple Ekin Cheng and Charlene Choi. James Yuen will resume directing duties for an April shoot and fall release.

Universe’s Filmart slate this year also includes the March 22 release Love Lifting, a romantic drama directed by Herman Yau and starring Chapman To (Inferno Affairs) and Elanne Kong.