Epic $70 million Chinese film 'on schedule'

SHANGHAI — “Forbidden Kingdom,” the $70 million pic that brings Jackie Chan and Jet Li together on the bigscreen for the first time, is midway through its China shoot and “on schedule,” according to producer Casey Silver.

Currently filming on Asia’s biggest film set in Zhejiang Province’s Hengdian Studios, the movie is financed entirely by U.S. private equity and was one of the most sought-after films at last month’s Cannes market because it is one of the few studio-sized pics available to independent distributors.

“Hengdian is treating us very well,” said Silver, who has been developing the film since working with screenwriter John Fusco on the set of their 2004 film “Hidalgo.” “The work ethic here is fantastic.”

“Forbidden Kingdom” is a co-production of Silver’s Casey Silver Prods. and local mini-major Huayi Bros. In line with similar recent production arrangements, it will be released in China as a domestic picture, avoiding the quota on foreign film imports.

Distrib rights to several overseas territories are already sold, with Lionsgate and the Weinstein Co. picking up major territories. Silver said it is due for release next summer.

Pic tells the story of an American teenager, played by Michael Angarano (“Almost Famous”), who finds an antique Chinese staff in a pawn shop and is transported back to ancient China. There he meets kung-fu master Lu Yan (Jackie Chan) and a deadly silent monk (Jet Li) on his journey to return the staff to its owner, the Monkey King, imprisoned by an evil warlord (Collin Chou).

Movie, which also stars local actresses Li Bingbing (“The Knot”) and Liu Yifei (“Love of May”), is helmed by Rob Minkoff (“The Lion King,” “Stuart Little”), with d.p. and action director roles taken, respectively, by “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” alumni Peter Pau and Yuen Woo-ping.

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