Hengdian, Salon, AMPCo plan 'Dragon'

First film of planned trilogy

HENGDIAN, China -- Hong Kong’s Salon Films, Australia’s AMPCo and China’s Hengdian Film Production Co. jointly announced Sunday the $10 million co-production “The Last Dragon,” a family adventure planned as the first film of a trilogy.

“Dragon” will star Australian actor Sam Neill (“Jurassic Park”), Vince Colosimo, Louis Corbett and a yet-to-be-named Chinese cast. Filming will take place in Hengdian, with post done in Adelaide, Australia. The film is tentatively scheduled for release in late 2009.

The film marks the first official co-production of the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement. South Australian premier Mike Rann; China Film Co-production Co. president Zhang Xun; Salon Films chairman Fred Wang; Hengdian Group founder Xu Wenrong; secretary of the Zhejiang Federation of Literature and Art Lin Xiaofeng; and AMPCo executive director and “Dragon” director Mario Andreacchio signed a memorandum of understanding at a press conference that formalized the “historical collaboration between Australia and China in filmmaking,” said Rann.

At the event, Salon also announced a series of close partnerships with China’s Hengdian Group, parent company of Hengdian World Studios. “We hope to produce Chinese stories in harmony with Western culture,” said Fred Wang.

Salon and Hengdian signed a memorandum of understanding for the sequel to Ang Lee’s 1994 “Eat Drink Man Woman” with the original’s Taiwanese producer Hsu Li-kong (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), to be co-produced by Hsu’s Zoomhunt International. Director is not yet confirmed but shooting is scheduled to begin in 2009 in Hengdian.

The two will also work with Japanese conglomerate Yoshimoto Kogyo. They signed a joint venture agreement for kung fu/boxing romp “Zhan-Ji Lei-tei” (tentatively titled “Ultimate Ring”), which will be adapted into a TV game show.

In accordance with the $300 million Access Asia Film Fund announced in March, Salon and Hengdian will produce four English-language projects, including a newly-announced film adaptation of “Mulan,” along with the previously disclosed “China Clipper,” “Kung Fu Master” and television series “Forbidden City.”

Nicknamed “China’s Hollywood” and with an area of 364 sq. kilometers, the Hengdian Studios is the largest backlot in the world, half the size of Singapore. The studio theme park draws tens of thousands tourists per year. A production branch was established in April.

The sets used in “The Last Dragon” might be incorporated as part of the theme park attractions, said Liu Zhijiang, president and general manager of Zhejiang Hengdian Film Production Co.