Hudlin mulls ‘High’ way out

'Binders' keeper eyes exit over coin

While Brit comedian Lee Evans is in negotiations to co-star with Jackie Chan in the supernatural thriller “Highbinders,” the pic’s helmer, Reginald Hudlin (“The Ladies Man”), may be dropping out.

Hudlin’s possible departure, due to concerns about the film’s financing, would provide a major setback to the pic, which is tentatively skedded for release in early 2002 but lacks a U.S. distributor.

Hudlin’s attachment was announced last February at the American Film Market. Reflecting the Asian film industry’s recent attempts to make movies with wider international appeal, Hudlin was was touted as being able to bring Hollywood sensibilities to the Hong Kong-financed film.

An action comedy, pic centers on a Chinese immigration officer (Chan) who is killed on the job but returns from the dead with superpowers. Evans, who is repped by William Morris, would play Chan’s British police partner. Thesp Rowan Atkinson (“Scooby-Doo”) was previously in talks for the role.

“Highbinders” is being bankrolled by Hong Kong-based production company Emperor Multimedia Group. With a $35 million budget, it would be the most expensive pic ever produced in Hong Kong. Chan’s “The Accidental Spy,” which will be released later this year, holds that distinction now.EMG, which formed last year, is part of the Emperor’s Group, a conglom comprised of four companies dealing in real estate, banking, entertainment and financial services.

“Highbinders” will be produced by Alfred Cheung and is skedded to begin lensing in early July in Hong Kong and Australia.