Columbia Pictures Boards Chinese Martial Arts Feature The Monk

In a move to expand its local language production presence in China, Columbia Pictures has secured key partnerships with local high-profile filmmakers and entered in to split-rights agreements with Chinese production companies. Included among these, Columbia Pictures announces that principal photography has commenced on the Chinese martial arts action feature The Monk, directed by Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine). The film, which is currently shooting on location in Xianghe, in China’s Hebei Province, is a Cao Huayi presentation produced by Chen Hong, who produced Chen Kaige’s previous two features.

The Monk marks Columbia Pictures’ second recent production in Mainland China, following the Chinese co-production Gone With The Bullets from internationally acclaimed director Jiang Wen, which is currently in post-production. It is based on the best-selling novel “Dao Shi Xia Shan” (“A Monk Comes Down the Mountain”) by Xu Haofeng, a renowned martial arts writer, screenwriter and director whose credits include screenwriter for Wong Kar-Wai’s recent film, The Grandmaster.

The Monk stars Wang Baoqiang, who recently starred in Lost In Thailand, one of China’s highest grossing films to date; Taiwanese actress Lin Chi-ling (Red Cliff, 101 Proposals); and Fan Wei (Personal Tailor, Crazy Dinner Party).

The martial arts are being choreographed by Ku Huan-Chiu (Journey to the West, CJ7). Australian cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson (Under The Tuscan Sun) is the Director of Photography and Animal Logic (The Great Gatsby, 300, The Matrix Reloaded) is handling the special effects. Composer Klaus Badelt (Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl) is scoring the film.

In the film, when a young monk is forced to leave his impoverished monastery, he relies on his extraordinary martial arts skills to survive in the outside world. In search of a mentor, he crosses paths with a Kung Fu master who is in possession of the Book of Secrets, which reveals the lost art of the deadly Ape Strike Kung Fu technique. The rare book is coveted by a sinister father and son who will go to any extremes to obtain it. The monk finds himself immersed in a deadly battle to protect both the book and his master.

Chen Kaige, one of China’s most prominent directors, won the Palme d’Or at the 1993 Cannes International Film Festival for his acclaimed feature Farewell My Concubine. Three of his previous films, Caught In The Web (2012), Forever Enthralled (2009), and the Golden Globe nominated The Promise (2005), were China’s official Oscar entries. Kaige’s directorial credits also include The Emperor and the Assassin (1999) starring Gong Li, which was nominated for a Cannes Palme d’Or, and The Sacrifice (2010).

In addition to The Monk, Columbia Pictures has closed a deal for a second collaboration with New Classics Media for a Chinese re-make of Columbia Pictures’ romantic comedy My Best Friend’s Wedding, which is in development as the studio eyes a December 2014 start date. The studio is also in negotiations to release the romantic drama Summer Has Tears with Chinese partner Ruyi Media, to be directed by Jin-gyo Cho and starring Han Geng, Wang Luodan and Wu Yifan, scheduled for principal photography in the 2nd half of 2014.

Commenting on Columbia’s increased involvement in Chinese local language production, Doug Belgrad, president of Columbia Pictures said, “Columbia Pictures is reemphasizing our long established commitment to Chinese local language production. We are delighted to be collaborating with such world class filmmakers as Chen Kaige and Jiang Wen, as well as partnering with esteemed Chinese production companies like New Classics Media, as we ramp up our activity in China.”

Dede Nickerson, Head of Production and Strategic Development for Sony Pictures China, and a pioneer in China’s film industry for the last 24 years and currently based in Beijing, added: “Chen Kaige is internationally renowned for his stunning visuals and epic storytelling. For ‘The Monk,’ he has brought together a first-class team both in front of and behind the camera and we have no doubt that the results will be thrilling.”

Columbia Pictures has a prestigious history in Chinese local language production including its highly successful 2004 collaboration with director Stephen Chow on the international action comedy hit Kung Fu Hustle, and Ang Lee’s groundbreaking martial arts classic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000).

The Monk will be distributed domestically in China by New Classics Media, and throughout the rest of the world, including Hong Kong and Taiwan, by Sony Pictures Releasing International (SPRI). The film is scheduled for Summer 2015 release.

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