Warner marshals ‘Warrior’ kid pic

Child chopsocky novel by Da Chen to help crack Asian market

Warner Bros. Pictures has just optioned “Wandering Warrior,” a children’s martial-arts tale set in 19th-century China. Studio is eyeing the project as the next spoke in the wheel of AOL Time Warner’s strategic drive into the Asian marketplace.

A young-adult novel penned by Chinese author Da Chen, “Warrior” is pitched by the studio as “Harry Potter” in the world of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” Story concerns a boy raised by monks and trained to fight a mortal enemy — who has a surprising identity. Random House will publish the book next year.

Warners plans to produce the film in Chinese as the first co-production of Warners’ nascent Hong Kong arm. The H.K. office, run by Ellen Eliasoph, is now shopping for a writer and director.

The studio is angling to release “Harry Potter” in China in 2002. “Wandering Warrior,” which would likely be produced on a budget similar to that of “Crouching Tiger,” could follow a year later.

MBST Entertainment partner Larry Brezner is producing the project with MBST managers Walter Hamada and Jonathan Hung, who brought the book to the studio.

Overseeing “Warrior” at Warner Bros. Stateside are exec Dan Lin and veep Polly Cohen. Book was repped by Writers & Artists and Elaine Koster.

Deal for “Warrior” comes on the heels of AOL TW’s announcement of an agreement with Beijing to distribute an entertainment cable web in southern China in exchange for carrying a Chinese-government channel in parts of the U.S.

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