Lionsgate Enters The Forbidden Kingdom

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Lionsgate announced today that principal photography on the action epic The Forbidden Kingdom will begin on May 2nd in China. Directed by Rob Minkoff (Stuart Little, The Lion King), the film marks the first-ever onscreen pairing of martial arts superstars Jackie Chan and Jet Li. The original screenplay by John Fusco (Young Guns, Hidalgo) is based on the traditional Chinese legend of the Monkey King. The film is produced by Casey Silver (Ladder 49, Hidalgo, the upcoming Leatherheads, currently filming in South Carolina with director/star George Clooney and RenĂ©e Zellweger) of Casey Silver Productions. Relativity Media is financing the film, with the company’s Ryan Kavanaugh (3:10 to Yuma, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) serving as executive producer. Renowned action choreographer Wo Ping (The Matrix, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) is creating the fight sequences, and the director of photography is Peter Pau (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Overseeing the production for Lionsgate are President of Theatrical Films Tom Ortenberg, President of Film Production Mike Paseornek, and President of Acquisitions and Co-Productions Peter Block. The announcement was made today by Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer.

Lionsgate plans a U.S. theatrical release in summer 2008 and will co-release the film with The Weinstein Company. Lionsgate UK will self-distribute the film in the United Kingdom. The Weinstein Company will handle distribution in Spain, France and Latin America. Relativity Media will be handling foreign sales on the picture.

“‘The Forbidden Kingdom’ has all the makings of a modern classic, and we are thrilled to fly its flag at Lionsgate,” said Feltheimer. “Casey Silver scored a real coup in bringing together two titans of martial arts, Jackie Chan and Jet Li, for their first onscreen pairing. He also gave them a project that is absolutely worthy of their talents, built upon a very savvy script that combines Chinese legend with the story of a modern, kung-fu obsessed teenager. And Rob Minkoff is the ideal director to handle the film’s combination of heart, head and lightning-fast limbs.”

Commented Silver, “It’s an honor to be working with Jackie and Jet, and a testament to the quality of John’s script. Rob’s passion and perspective on the movie promise an exciting ride for the audience. We’re also terribly excited by the opportunity to collaborate with action director Wo Ping, DP Peter Pau, and a host of exceptionally talented performers and technicians from Asian cinema. Relativity has been a staunch advocate for the movie and I’m thrilled that we have the feisty folks at Lionsgate behind the release of the movie.”

Said Kavanaugh, “We are very pleased to be partnering with Lionsgate again, and could not think of a better marketing and distribution platform for this film. We have truly enjoyed working with Casey on this project and know that his vision along with Rob Minkoff’s will bring this adventure to life.”

In The Forbidden Kingdom, an American teenager who is obsessed with Hong Kong cinema and kung-fu classics makes an extraordinary discovery in a Chinatown pawnshop: the legendary stick weapon of the Chinese sage and warrior, the Monkey King. With the lost relic in hand, the teenager unexpectedly finds himself traveling back to ancient China to join a crew of warriors from martial arts lore on a dangerous quest to free the imprisoned Monkey King.