Popular Chinese Filmmaker Accused of Plagiarizing 'Thelma & Louise'

Peony Literary Agency
Han Han

Han Han is also fighting claims he ripped off "Easy Rider"

Han Han, a dashing Chinese filmmaker, race car driver and novelist, as well as the world's most popular blogger, has been accused in state media of plagiarizing Thelma & Louise and Easy Rider for the plot of his hit debut movie, The Continent.

Named by Time magazine as one of the world's most influential people in 2010 and seen as the voice of a new generation in China, Han, 31, is a true idol and considered a possible crossover star between Hollywood and China.

Highly influential cultural critic and Tsinghua University professor Xiao Ying took aim at Han in the state-owned China Youth Daily, writing that "the exposure of ingenious fraud Han Han will be the biggest scandal of the Chinese literary world."

Xiao said that Han had plagiarized the plot of The Continent, a road movie featuring Feng Shaofeng and Chen Bolin on a journey of self-discovery, which has taken more than $100 million in box office so far.

The movie stole chunks of Ridley Scott's Thelma & Louise and Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider, Xiao wrote.

"The Continent is a film whose name falls short on content, and one that lacks logic or sincerity," he wrote. "He is a brand name of anti-intellectualism that has poisoned Chinese culture and must be cleansed," wrote Xiao.

The accusations against such a popular figure have caused major outrage among his more than 40 million followers on Sina Weibo, China's version of the banned Twitter network.

Han has long been subject to accusations that his work is ghostwritten or plagiarized, including his debut novel Triple Door, and there are accusations that his father, Han Renjun, writes many of his blog posts.

The charges resurface every couple of years. Celebrity blogger Peng Xiaoyun, who has long sought Han to face his critics, said he should answer the comments.

After Xiao's commentary was published, China Youth Daily appeared to distance themselves from Xiao's comments.

The paper published another commentary several hours later saying that Xiao's allegations were his own opinion, and thought they might even be libelous.

It said Xiao's hectoring tone was "in the style of the Cultural Revolution."

Yiyan Weiding echoed these comments on Sina Weibo saying: "These kind of defamatory remarks, like a propaganda poster from the Cultural Revolution, to come from an art professor? What a shame for the art world!"

Some have wondered if there was political motivation, as Han is very outspoken. In 2010, Han published The Party (Solo Chorus in Chinese), which is largely considered China's trendiest ever magazine, selling 1.5 million copies. Though not political, it was banned by the Communist Party.

Another fan, Weihai Haohan, said Han may have failed seven subjects at school and dropped out, but he has wisdom.

"He performed so badly at school, but he is really talented. Don't you think a person like that is a miracle in literature?"

Twitter: @cliffordcoonan