Paramount Links Up With China Film Group to Co-Produce 3D Fantasy Action Movie 'Marco Polo'

Jessica Chou
Paramount's Rob Moore

The co-production news comes days after the state-owned film company announced an "eight-figure" equity investment in two projects by Legendary Entertainment.

BEIJING -- Paramount Pictures will link up with Chinese state film company China Film Group to co-produce a new 3D fantasy-action movie Marco Polo, with shooting due to begin in October this year.

Marco Polo, based on the 14th century Italian merchant who was one of the first Europeans to travel in China, will be directed by an experienced action adventure director from the U.S. and feature a cast of Hollywood stars and tier-one actors and actresses from China, the two companies said in a statement.

The deal was signed by Zhang Qiang, China Film Group's vp film investment and production of CFC, and Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount Pictures at the Beijing International Film Festival.

It's the second announcement of a major Sino-Hollywood link-up by the Chinese state film colossus in a matter of days, after China Film Group said it would invest in Legendary Entertainment's forthcoming Warcraft and Seventh Son projects.

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Chinese firms Yuehua Entertainment, Phoenix Entertainment, and Huahua Film & Media Culture are also co-producing the project.

The movie will adapt the life of the explorer, who is one of the few renowned "foreigners" in Chinese history, and position it as a fantasy action movie.

Earlier this month, The Weinstein Co. announced that production was underway on Marco Polo, a Netflix original series also based on Marco Polo's epic adventures.

Moore said the action-fantasy genre would appeal to young people and feature at least one Hollywood actor as the main character, Marco Polo, and an American director skilled in artistic visual effect films who will be supported by a first-rate crew.

La Peikang, the newly installed president of China Film Group Corporation and Moore left their handprints at an official signing ceremony at the festival, along with Zhang; Du Hua, CEO of Yuehua Entertainment; Wang Fengchang, chairman of Phoenix Entertainment; and Wang Kefei, CEO of Huahua Film & Media Culture.

Zhang emphasized the significance of this first-time cooperation between the two companies and how he believes it marks the beginning of a series of future co-productions between China, Hollywood and other international regions.

Co-produced movies present unique challenges, because their content and topic have to balance the cultural and historical differences of both domestic and international markets, said Zhang.

This collaboration between CFC and Paramount Pictures was a result of lengthy discussions and preparation to finally choose Marco Polo, a topic that appeals to both the Chinese market and overseas markets.

Moore said Paramount had been looking for opportunities to expand with the rapidly growing Chinese film industry, and this was an extremely exciting venture for the studio.

Twitter: @cliffordcoonan