Kong joins Annaud for 'Wolf Totem'

Film based on bestselling novel could take five years to finish

BEIJING -- Hong Kong producer Bill Kong joined French director Jean-Jacques Annaud at a Beijing news conference Tuesday to celebrate their first filmmaking collaboration, the big screen version of the bestselling Chinese novel "Wolf Totem."

Kong joins the "Wolf Totem" production led by Beijing Forbidden City Film Co, whose general manager, Xu Jianhai, told The Hollywood Reporter the film about a Chinese student who trains a wolf in Inner Mongolia in the 1970s would be made for $30 million.

Although Kong, who is best known in the West for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," was less certain than Xu about the budget for "Wolf Totem," he said, "There is nobody in the world better suited to direct animals. Jean-Jacques loves animals as much as he loves people."

Annaud's production of the film based on Jiang Rong's novel is expected to take five years to make. "With 'Wolf Totem' we have to go through the whole process and see where we are with the budget then," said Kong, CEO of EDKO Films, who previously distributed Annaud's "The Lover" and "Quest for Fire" in Hong Kong.

"It will be difficult to work with the wolves, but 99% of what we show will be real," said Annaud, who plans to train live wolf-stars for the production, much as he did for his 1988 film "The Bear."

The event also featured a video montage of clips from Annaud's previous films, such as "Enemy at the Gates" and "The Name of the Rose." Conspicuously absent was any mention of the 1997 film "Seven Years in Tibet," starring Brad Pitt as a German explorer who befriends The Dalai Lama.

Tibet is a touchy subject in China, where the government considers the Tibetan spiritual leader a splittist or worse.

Despite the absence of a mention of "Seven Years in Tibet," producer Kong said. "There were no concerns from the Chinese side, so it's nothing to worry about."
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