Disney preps martial arts ‘Snow White’

Yuen to make his English-lingo helming debut

Disney is negotiating with Yuen Wo Ping, choreographer of groundbreaking actioners “The Matrix” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” to helm a live-action take on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

Project was until recently known as “Snow White and the Seven Shao Lin.” (For the martial arts illiterate, that’s a reference to the Shao Lin monks of China, who became masters of fighting concepts so they could better understand the source of violence and overcome it.)

Pic will be produced by Andrew Gunn, who most recently helped turn Disney theme-park attraction “The Country Bears” into the pic of the same name. He also is producing a remake of the 1977 laffer “Freaky Friday.”

Deal not only marks a change in audience for Yuen, who would make his English-lingo helming debut on the now-untitled family action-adventure pic, but also a change in reps for the choreographer. He signed with the William Morris Agency for representation only a week ago.

Penned by scribes Josh Harman and Scott Elder, “Snow” update is set in the 1890s and follows a woman who returns home to Hong Kong to attend her father’s funeral after 20 years abroad. She discovers that her stepmother is plotting against her and escapes to mainland China, where she seeks solace with seven Shao Lin monks who, in turn, come to believe the woman holds the fate of the world in her hands and protect her.

Making mark

Currently wrapping up work for Quentin Tarantino on “Kill Bill,” Yuen is already a major name in Asia, having helmed some 27 pictures there including recent Dimension import chopsocky “Iron Monkey” (originally released in 1993). He is also credited for having discovered such now-familiar talents as Michelle Yeoh, Jet Li and Jackie Chan.

Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group veepee Brigham Taylor brought the project into the studio; scribe Elder was formerly his assistant, while Harman works in Disney’s story department.

Buena Vista Motion Picture Group prexy Nina Jacobson is no stranger to Asian transplants, having supervised helmer John Woo’s first movie in the U.S. (“Hard Target”) while still an exec at Universal Pictures, and also helped oversee development and production on U’s 1993 pic “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.”

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