Vicki Zhao to Direct Animated Film Adaptation of 'My Fair Princess' for Alibaba Pictures

Vicki Zhao H 2015
AP Images/Invision

The Chinese actress-turned-director is coming full circle as she signs on to helm a big-screen version of the 1990s TV drama that made her a star.

Chinese actress and filmmaker Vicki Zhao is set to direct an animated feature-film adaptation of My Fair Princess, the hit period TV drama that launched her to stardom in the late 1990s.

Alibaba Pictures, the rising film unit of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, has acquired the adaptation rights to the property and will produce and distribute the film, the company told The Hollywood Reporter.

Created by Chinese writer Chiung Yao and set during the 18th century Qing dynasty, My Fair Princess tells the story of an orphaned tomboy (Zhao) who befriends the emperor's illegitimate daughter and becomes a princess by accident. The show became a major hit after its debut on Hunan Broadcasting System in 1998, making overnight stars of cast members Zhao, Ruby Lin and Fan Bingbing.

Alibaba Pictures said it had no further details on the animated adaptation to share at this stage.

The upstart studio has invested in such Hollywood films as Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible — Rouge Nation and a growing slate of domestic Chinese titles. The studio was a minority backer of Light Chaser Animation's much-anticipated debut film Little Door Gods, and it has finished filming The Ferryman, starring Tony Leung and Angela Baby and produced by Wong Kar Wai. Other titles are in development.

After a successful run as a leading lady, Zhao — who starred in Shaolin Soccer (2001), Red Cliff (2008-2009), Painted Skin (2008) and Painted Skin: The Resurrection (2012) — debuted as a director in 2013 with romantic drama So Young, which grossed $118 million from a budget of $5 million.

Nicknamed "China's show-biz [Warren] Buffett," Zhao, along with her businessman husband Huang Youlong, is also a noted investor. Prior to last summer's stock-market meltdown in China, her net worth was estimated at over $1 billion. Known to be a personal friend of Alibaba founder Jack Ma, she was an early investor and promoter of Alibaba Pictures, in which she is understood to still hold a substantial stake.