Weinstein's 'Shanghai' Surprise: Movie Gets Release After Seven Years

Shanghai Still - H 2015
Murray Close

Shanghai Still - H 2015

Well after they purchased the mystery-thriller, TWC is putting it in theaters. Why? They won't say, but producer Mike Medavoy is pleased: "I am rooting for it."

A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Why is a movie made seven years ago finally getting to U.S. theaters now? The Weinstein Co. won't say why it has set an Oct. 2 release on about 100 screens for Mikael Hafstrom's Shanghai, starring John Cusack. That's a long road for a film that cost a bundle ($50 million) and boasts a lineup of Oscar nominees including Swedish helmer Hafstrom (Evil), writer Hossein Amini (The Wings of the Dove), producer Mike Medavoy (Black Swan) and co-star Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai) as well as international stars Gong Li and Chow Yun-Fat.

Though the 1940s-set mystery-thriller opened internationally in 2010, Weinstein kept it on the domestic shelf. The project was the brainchild of producer Mike Medavoy, born in Shanghai in 1941, who developed the original version of the screenplay but became largely hands-off once Weinstein took it on in 2007 and began overhauling the project. In fact, Medavoy was unaware that the film was being released. (Other participants say they were simply notified by email that the film is now headed to the multiplex.)

"I certainly want it to do well, and I'm rooting for it," says Medavoy, who is now immersed in his own passion project about the Jews of Shanghai, The Cursed Piano, that the Shanghai Group is financing.

From the beginning Shanghai was plagued by false starts and delays. At one point, Johnny Depp was interested in starring, but Harvey Weinstein balked at paying his $20 million asking price. And though TWC spent three months in the titular city doing preproduction in 2008, the Chinese government revoked its permission to shoot there, forcing the production to scramble and move to Thailand, where filming took place instead. Released in China in 2010, Shanghai made $6.7 million there and another $5.1 million when in opened in Japan a year later en route to an unimpressive $9.2 million overseas tally. Meanwhile, an expected U.S. release failed to materialize. One TWC source says Shanghai originally tested poorly and has only recently reached the point where it is scoring well.

Still, the Weinsteins — who sources say may be mounting a bid to buy back the Miramax library — won't bear the brunt of Shanghai's inevitable write-down entirely. For another set of brothers — the Beijing-based Huayi Brothers' Wang Zhongjun and Wang Zhonglei — covered part of Shanghai's $50 million budget.