Helmer works on 'Catching Monkey'

BEIJING — No one can accuse Tsui Hark of being lazy.

Fresh off the success of “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame,” the Hong Kong helmer found himself with a two-month training period for the stars of his forthcoming $35 million chopsocky epic 3D “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate,” which is now in production in China.

Tsui had “Avatar’s” 3D VFX supervisor, Chuck Comisky on the set, and he started working in a low-key kind of way and came up with a 3D thriller called “Catching Monkey,” starring Charlie Young, Yu Nan and Daniel Chan.

“Tsui started doing 3D tests at the end of last year in Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong, and decided what system he was going to use. He said he would shoot two scenes, but they were not real shooting conditions,” producer Nansun Shi told Variety.

“Chuck came and trained the crew, so Tsui said why don’t I just shoot a movie? He wasn’t so ambitious in the beginning but Chuck demystified the movie for us. And we had a full script and actors. The cost wasn’t high, friends rallied around,” said Shi, whose Hong Kong-based Distribution Workshop will handle international sales, and is likely to show stills for “Catching Monkey” at American Film Market, and will also be pitching “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate.”

In “Flying Swords,” Jet Li plays a Ming Dynasty general battling a power-hungry eunuch, played by Chen Kun. Their contest comes to a head at an inn run by Zhou Xun.

Shi says there were no real synergies between “Catching Monkey” and “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate,” features Jet Li, Zhou Xun, Aloys Chen, Mavis Fan and Guey Lun-mei.

“Flying Swords” is expected to be released during the Christmas season in 2011. Coin hails from Bona International Film Group, China Film Group, Shanghai Media Group, Shineshow and Liangzi Group.

“One is a contemporary thriller and one a martial arts movie. But there was a lot of time to train,” she said.

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