Historic fave ‘Empress’ is co-prod’n landmark

Korea's popular tale to hit big screen

SEOUL — One of Korea’s favorite historical tales will provide the grist for an upcoming U.S.-Korea film co-production.

“Last Empress” is based on the life of Korea’s last queen, Ja-young Min, who led a fight against the Japanese during the late Choson dynasty.

Pic is being put together by South Korea’s Samhwa production company and Landmark Asia, a joint investment firm run by U.S. entertainment company Landmark as well as South Korean and Japanese backers.

Landmark Asia says Landmark approached it with the idea of making a movie out of the popular “Empress” story a few of years ago.

Long-running show

“Empress,” which also concerns Min’s battles for social change within Korea — a policy that made a fierce enemy of her tradition-minded father-in-law — is restaged in local theaters as a musical year after year to unflagging ticket sales.

The story, in nonmusical form, also began a 100-part run on television May 9, where ratings place it among the top shows in the country.

The film — also not planned as a musical — will go before cameras sometime in the second half of 2002. It will be shot entirely in Hollywood with a multicultural cast — though it’s planned the role of Min will be played by a Korean actress with English-speaking abilities or a Korean-American actress. Pic will be filmed in English.

Total budget for the film is estimated at $50 million, with Landmark and Samhwa splitting the bill. The set and royal costumes will be elaborate and historically accurate, Landmark Asia rep Jae-kyoung Park says.

Script is in development, and a director is not yet attached — though Korean filmmaker Ha Moung-joon is mentioned as a strong candidate.

Landmark also plans to invest $115 million within the next three years in the Korean entertainment industry through Landmark Asia’s theme park, animation and movie biz.

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