EXCLUSIVE: 'The Mural' Retouched to Pass Muster With Censors

Director Gordon Chan's next project The Mural, formerly titled Painted Wall, was shot as an action update to his hit Painted Skin and had to be retooled on the fly to satisfy China's censors, the film's producer unveiled for the first time.

The film tells the story of a mythical paradise populated by beautiful women who at once lure men in then spit them out.

Originally set in an ancient nightclub, the Mural plot had to be changed after censors objected to the script mirroring contemporary Chinese life. "Nightclubs are still a forbidden subject with some in China," said Enlight Pictures CEO Zhang Zhao on Friday at the American Film Market. Zhang noted that a great number of clubs were busted around the time he submitted Chan's script to the Film Bureau.

"In traditional Chinese films the world is very male, but we decided the market needs something fresh," Zhang said. "We asked ourselves, 'What if we drew more women to the theaters and also appealed to younger-generation men who these days are questioning who's in control in the romantic world?'"

In the $10 million film shot on a lot outside Beijing, actor Deng Chao, a star in the current box office hit Detective Dee from director Tsui Hark, is entranced by a mural depicting of an Amazonian world. He dons women's clothing in order to follow actress Sun Li into its alternate universe. Once inside, he discovers that the empress in power and all her women warriors are not too kind to gentlemen callers, resulting in the fighting that saw Chan cast action actor Colin Chow, too.

"Everybody will laugh when they see so many strong, beautiful women who turn out to be very cruel. Sexy, but very mean," said Zhang, a producer on Chan's Painted Skin, about a carnivorous female vampire, which grossed about $40 million in China in 2008.

The film's titular mural was inspired by a short episode taken from the classic tale from which Painted Skin also derived, Zhang said. "The film is very much about Gordon. Men have this dilemma when they fall in love. Once we're in it, we end up destroying a lot of things. But do we really want to destroy these things?"

The film that also stars Yan Ni and Zeng Zhiwei is now in postproduction in the Beijing shop of effects house Base FX.

Mural, which Enlight will distribute itself, is set to open in August 2011.