'Forbidden' gets China world bow


UPDATED 4:35 p.m. PT March 18

HONG KONG -- Jackie Chan and Jet Li's "The Forbidden Kingdom" will have its world premiere April 16 in Beijing, producer Raffaella de Laurentiis confirmed Tuesday, marking the first major Hollywood-China co-production to debut in China.

Producers on the big-budget action adventure, which was financed by China's Huayi Brothers, recently submitted an application with China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television for permission to roll out their red carpet in the nation's capital.

"Kingdom" marks the first time that Chan and Li -- who have had parallel careers breaking from Chinese-language into English-language films -- have worked together. The pair met in the '80s, after Li made his mark in "The Shaolin Temple" (1982) and Chan was already a household name in Asia with "Drunken Master" (1978).

"It was as if we were having a secret affair," Li joked at a Filmart news conference Tuesday touting the $75 million production.

Said Chan: "I'd drive him around Hong Kong. It was before the handover of Hong Kong to China."

It took them 15 years, however, to finally duke it out onscreen in "Kingdom," which centers on a troubled Boston youth (Michael Angarano) who is magically transported into one of China's most famous ancient legends.

The film will be released April 18 in the U.S. by Lionsgate and April 24 in Hong Kong by Emperor Motion Pictures.

Aside from featuring the two biggest names in Asian action, the film also offers "a sampling" of references from icons and elements in Chinese mythology and legend, director Rob Minkoff said. The helmer was brought in to add texture to the film, he said, but not necessarily to cater to Western audiences' tastes.

Regardless, the biggest draw of "Kingdom" will be the fight scenes, which Chan was particularly happy to recall.

"Our director of cinematography, Peter Pau, kept telling us to slow down," Chan said. Yuen Woo-ping ("The Matrix" series) was the action cinematographer.