'Painted Skin' to spin off sequels, TV

Zhang Ziyi courted for second feature in trilogy

HONG KONG -- "Painted Skin" will be the first in a trilogy of feature film adaptations of China's most famous classic ghost stories and the start of a series of TV spinoffs, Kathy Lan, president and managing director of Golden Sun Films told The Hollywood Reporter Wednesday.

Given Chinese censors' tastes, the adaptations of "Liaozhai Zhiyi" (Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio) will move away from horror in favor the fantastic, Lan said.

The $15 million fantasy "Skin" is set to release on Sept. 28 on more than 1,100 screens in China, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. It was directed by Gordon Chan ("The Medallion") and stars martial arts idol Donnie Yen ("Dragon Tiger Gate") and actresses Zhou Xun ("The Banquet") and Zhao Wei ("Red Cliffs").

For the $20 million second installment, producers are negotiatimg with actress Zhang Ziyi to play the lead opposite Yen. A story has yet to be chosen, but the sequel is set to begin production in 2009, Lan said.

Producers are also planning 40-episode TV spinoffs for each film in the trilogy. Each TV series will feature a new cast and be made for 30 million yuan ($4.3 million). Small screen production of "Painted Skin" will begin in China in the fall.

"Skin" the feature will be distributed in China by the Shanghai Film Group and in the rest of Asia by the newly established Golden Sun subsidiary Eastern Mordor Film Co. Lan hopes to conclude sales to Europe and Japan at the upcoming Cannes market, where Golden Sun will screen 20 minutes of footage.

"Skin" was produced by eight investors including China's Ningxia Film Studio and the Shanghai Film Group, Singapore's Mediacorp Raintree Pictures and Hong Kong's Golden Sun Films and Salon Multimedia Center. Salon provided equipment.