Hong Kong Director Pang Ho-cheung to Adapt 'The Deer and the Cauldron' Into $240M Trilogy

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Pang Ho-cheung

Written by Jin Yong, considered the Tolkien of China, the adaptation of the epic novel will mark the helmer's first foray into both period drama and action.

Hong Kong maverick director Pang Ho-cheung is set to direct a film adaptation of the literary saga, The Deer and the Cauldron.

Conceived as a trilogy, the films are based on the eponymous popular novel first serialized from 1969 to 1972, the last of the wuxia classics by late literature giant Jin Yong (Louis Cha), who passed away last year at the age of 94.

Pang will write, produce and direct the trilogy, budgeted at $80 million for each installment, under his own Making Film Productions. Hong Kong-based Bravos Pictures reps the film at the European Film Market (EFM) and is seeking potential investors for the series. Production of the first film is set to begin in mid-2019 for a 2021 release.

Renowned for his quirky point of view and dark humor, evident in films such as Vulgaria and the recent hit Missbehavior, Pang has previously only made films set in the present. The Deer and the Cauldron will mark his first foray into both period drama and action. But it seems a good fit as the story as well as the anti-hero in the center of the story, famous for being a fake eunuch in the Qing Dynasty imperial court with a harem of seven “wives,” were imbued with anti-establishment values and comic sentiments.

The last time the much-loved tale was turned into a film was in 1992 when Hong Kong comedy superstar Stephen Chow played the lead role. But the adaptation which left the most lasting impression was the 1984 TVB series, featuring two star-making turns by then-rising actors Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Andy Lau, as the eunuch impostor and the emperor respectively. Leung’s comedic talents brought the character to life in the series, well before he became a stalwart of Wong Kar Wai’s filmography with his measured emoting. The lead roles in the new adaptation are yet to be cast.

The time is ripe for a revival of Jin Yong adaptations on film, as the author’s work has only appeared on the small screen in the last decade. The most widely read contemporary writer across the Chinese-speaking world, Jin Yong’s extensive work is seen as an IP wellspring that has the potential of spawning a cinematic universe akin to Marvel's or Tolkien's. At the moment, besides Pang’s trilogy, Media Asia is developing The Legend of the Condor Heroes, to be helmed by Roy Chow (Rise of the Legend), and Sun Entertainment Culture is adapting The Book and the Sword, Jin Yong's debut novel in 1955, with director Jacob Cheung (Cageman) attached.