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Second helping of Asian classics

TWC to bring live-action version of 'Mulan' to bigscreen

More classic Asian tales are coming back via the Weinsteins.

The brothers are in final talks to ink a three-picture deal with top Chinese thesp Ziyi Zhang, the first being a live-action version of “Mulan.” Second up with Zhang, The Weinstein Co. is planning a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 pic “The Seven Samurai.”

“Mulan” is set up as one of the debut pictures out of the new Meridian Pictures stable being established by Chinese multi-millionaire David Dong.

Pic is scripted by Wang Hui-ling (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and forthcoming John Woo project “The Battle of Red Cliff”). It draws on a Chinese folk tale of a female resistance fighter who disguises herself as her father to take his place in battle. Disney made “Mulan” into an animated pic in 1998, but the tale was first put on the big screen in a 1956 Chinese production. New Chinese-language pic’s budget is pegged at $20 million, with production skedded for February.

Parties involved with the talks didn’t reveal the third film to be made under the deal between Zhang and TWC, or the identity of co-producing partners on “Samurai.”

Moves further underline TWC’s interest in the Asian movie biz.

During Cannes, TWC announced the launch of Dragon Dynasty, an upscale DVD label that will become home to its growing collection of Asian martial arts and action titles. TWC has inked a 43-title deal with Hong Kong-based Fortune Star, which controls a 400-title library. The Weinsteins have added another 50 Asia pics to its stable from the Shaw Bros. library.

In April, TWC acquired distribution rights to martial arts action-thriller “Dragon Tiger Gate” in all English-speaking territories and before that paid $12 million for multi-territory rights to Thai martial arts actioner “Ong-Bak 2.” At Miramax, the Weinsteins enjoyed long-running success at releasing selected Asian titles in the U.S., including “Hero,” Academy Award nominee “Farewell, My Concubine,” animated hit “Princess Mononoke,” “Iron Monkey” and the Japanese version of “Shall We Dance.”

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