Stephen Chow is 'Hornet's' Kato, helmer

Will star in and direct Columbia superhero movie

Stephen Chow is flying high with "The Green Hornet."

Chow is teaming up with Seth Rogen to bring the superhero to the big screen. Chow will not only star in the film as Kato but also make his American directorial debut.

Chow, known for his visual work in "Kung Fu Hustle" and "Shaolin Soccer," gives momentum to the project, which has a June 25, 2010, release date.

His boarding, announced by Columbia presidents Doug Belgrad and Matt Tolmach, also gives an inkling to the kind of movie Columbia is looking to make as Chow is known for his martial arts action-meets-Bugs Bunny style.

Rogen has slimmed down for his role as masked crimefighter Green Hornet, which started as a 1930s radio program and later on film and TV and in comic books. The masked Kato has traditionally been the Green Hornet's sidekick and driver who helps on the crimefighter's vigilante adventures.

Neal Moritz is producing the project through his Original Film shingle. Original's Ori Marmur is executive producing.

"The Green Hornet is a dream project, and it's come together in a dream way," Moritz said. "Seth will be fantastic in the lead role, and Stephen was the only name on the list for Kato. The material is a perfect match for his sensibilities -- Stephen in the director's chair is the best thing for the film."

Added Rogen, "Stephen was always my and Evan's first choice for director and to play Kato. We just hope that he never finds out we're not the Wachowski Brothers."

Sony and Chow have a strong relationship, with the studio having co-produced and released Chow's "Kung Fu Hustle," which brought in $100 million at the worldwide boxoffice. The studio also released Chow's fantasy comedy "CJ7."

"When Seth, Evan and Neal said they wanted Stephen Chow to be part of 'The Green Hornet,' it was a fantasy," Tolmach said. "Now that it's happening, it's almost too good to be true. Stephen's been an important part of the Sony family for many years, so it's truly serendipitous for us to be moving forward with him directing the movie and starring as Kato."

Perhaps the most memorable portrayal of Kato was the late martial arts star Bruce Lee, an idol of Hong Kong native Chow's.

Like Lee, Chow is Asia's top star and a martial arts expert. He has directed five feature films, including "Kung Fu Hustle" and its sequel, "Kung Fu Hustle 2," currently in production.

"I'm excited to be taking on 'The Green Hornet' -- obviously I've been a huge fan of the show since I was a kid," Chow said. "The idea of stepping into Bruce Lee's shoes as Kato is both humbling and thrilling, and to get the chance to direct the project as my American movie debut is simply a dream come true."

His Star Overseas film company recently formed a new multifeature collaboration deal with Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia, which includes Sony Pictures Releasing International distributing the features worldwide.

Chow is repped by CAA and the law firm Weissman Wolff Bergman Coleman Grodin & Evall.