Stars line up for 'Bodyguards'

Donnie Yen, Leon Lai among Cinema Popular pic's cast

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HONG KONG -- Cinema Popular is set to announce the star-studded cast of 150 million yuan ($22 million) "Bodyguards and Assassins," the debut film of the Beijing-based joint venture production outfit formed by director-producer Peter Chan and producer Huang Jin-xin's We Pictures with China's Polybona International.

Donnie Yen ("Ip Man"), Leon Lai ("Forever Enthralled"), Wang Xue-qi ("Forever Enthralled"), Nicholas Tse ("Dragon Tiger Gate"), Tony Leung Ka-fai ("The Lover"), Hu Jun ("Red Cliff"), Eric Tsang ("Infernal Affairs"), Simon Yam ("Election"), Fan Bing-bing ("Shinjuku Incident"), Wang Po-chieh and Zhou Yun ("The Sun Also Rises) rounds out the galaxy of stars in the cast of "Bodyguards and Assassins." Teddy Chen will direct the film, which was previously titled "Dark October" and is a fictional retelling of the dangerous circumstances surrounding Dr. Sun Yat-sen and the kung-fu masters who protected him before the Chinese Revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty.

Cinema Popular, which has set up a revolving fund of 500 million yuan ($73.2 million) for a three-year, 15-film slate, is poised to become the first major studio in China. Armed with Polybona International's vast distribution channels, the studio has also formed a strategic partnership with Shanghai Media Group for the promotion and marketing of "Bodyguards."

Cinema Popular proves a change of strategy for the renowned director and producer Peter Chan ("The Warlords"), who relocated his filmmaking base from Hong Kong to Beijing.

"Creatively, a film made for the Chinese market should be organically conceived in China, possibly with the commercial tools and expertise of the Hong Kong creative people, to try to make those concepts into commercially viable movies," Chan told the Hollywood Reporter. "So that's the reason why we had to set up shop in China. Our office in China is a creative hub so that we can join the forces of the Hong Kong and Chinese talents."

"Bodyguards and Assassins" is the first step in propelling Cinema Popular into one of the major studios in China. The studio is a joint venture between We Pictures and Chinese distribution giant Polybona International. The partnership deal with Shanghai Media Group will provide far-reaching promotion and marketing, which is the key to bringing audiences into cinemas in China. Chan estimated that boxoffice has to surpass 1 billion yuan ($146 million) to afford a decent 100 million yuan ad campaign.