No Monkey Business as Competing Versions of Chinese Legend Go into Production

Filmko and Mandarin Films Prepare $60 Mil 3D "The Monkey King"

HONG KONG – Filmko and Mandarin Films are co-producing a 400 million yuan ($60 million) 3D retelling of the Chinese legend The Monkey King with a mega-watt cast including Chow Yun-Fat, Donnie Yen and Aaron Kwok for a July 2011 release, Filmko Distribution general manager Dominic Yip told The Hollywood Reporter on Friday. 

Producers intend for the film to release in 3D IMAX format, and have meet with IMAX executives in Beijing, Yip said, but the deal is in early stages and not yet finalized.

Filmko and Mandarin share in a 65% and 35% split the production cost, now targeted at 400 million yuan, currently the second-most expensive Asian project in production ever after John Woo’s $80 million 2008 two-part epic Red Cliff. Filmko is in negotiation with investors in China, Japan and other regions for minor contributions to the budget, a part of which is set aside for intended IMAX release. 

Ip Man star Donnie Yen will play the title character and serves as action choreographer in The Monkey King, joined by Chow Yun-Fat (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End), Aaron Kwok (The Storm Warriors), Cecilia Cheung (The Promise) and Asian pop icon Faye Wong (Chungking Express) in her first acting role in six years.  The film is produced by Ah Gan, helmer of the most successful horror film in China, The Game of Killing. Hong Kong director Cheng Poi-Shui (Accident) will helm from a screenplay by Edmond Wong, writer of Ip Man 1 & 2. 

The companies had hired from Hollywood a part of the production team, to handle the 3D aspects and special effects in the film, including cinematographer Daniel Symmes, special makeup effects supervisor Shaun Smith (300, I Am Legend), and visual effects consultant David Ebner (Alice in Wonderland). Special effects shooting in 3D has commenced in Beijing, while full cast will begin filming in mid-November.

The Monkey King is based on the 17th century Chinese classic novel Journey to the West. The simian protagonist is set for cinemas in 2011. The Monkey King will be presented at the upcoming American Film Market and is scheduled for China and Hong Kong in July 2011.

Director/producer/superstar Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer) and his company Bingo Group and China Film Group are also moving forward with their take on the legend, a remake of Chow’s 1994 A Chinese Odyssey, which will begin shooting in China in February next year for a Christmas 2011 release. With a 60 million yuan ($9 million) budget, the Chow camp has contemplated shooting and releasing in 3D or IMAX format, but is considering the budget implications. Chinese television producer Zhang Jizhong has also announced a three-part 3D movie version in English.

“We are not concerned at all about any other competing projects about the Monkey King legend,” said Yip.  “Anyone can make a movie about the Monkey King.  But we have a stellar cast, our own creative interpretation of the story and the characters. Ours will be completely different from anyone else’s.”