‘Iron Man 3’ Chinese casting could help pic’s Mainland prospects

Wang Xueqi will play Dr. Wu in threequel

Marvel has added leading Chinese actor Wang Xueqi to the cast of Robert Downey Jr. starrer “Iron Man 3,” putting the film one step closer to playing on Chinese screens.

Wang will play the minor role of Dr. Wu. With a career spanning a quarter century, Wang is a popular figure, featuring in China’s foreign-language Oscar entry, “Caught in the Web.” His other credits include “Sacrifice” and “Bodyguards and Assassins.”

Produced by Marvel and distributed by DMG Entertainment in China, a Chinese actor could help the film get an official co-production status — one of three ways a non-domestic film can play in the country — but it’s uncertain whether producers plan to push for that label.

Full co-productions are treated as domestic films and do not fall under the import quota, and usually involve local investment in exchange for local distribution rights.

They stand a much stronger chance of getting a mainland Chinese release, have immunity from blackout periods and a greater revenue share.

There has been a crackdown on what Chinese bizzers see as attempts to take advantage of the benefits of co-production status by paying lip service to the requirements.

DMG’s “Looper” caused a stir when it played in China despite reports that regulators had denied it co-production status. But “Looper” got through largely because DMG is a Chinese company, with 900 employees in China and headquarters in Beijing. That means that the film could be considered domestically Chinese, which can provide the same benefits as a co-production.

Last year, only five films got an official co-production status, according to regulatory body the China Film Group. None of those films came from U.S. companies.

“Iron Man 3” director Shane Black made waves a few months ago with statements that the pic would not be very Chinese. Casting a famous Chinese thesp and shooting in China (production begins Dec. 10 in Beijing) could help ease the pic’s entry into the mainland. With the exception of China, Disney will release the pic worldwide on May 3.

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