Minghella brings ‘Mountain’ to mainland

Civil War epic coming to China

SHANGHAI “Cold Mountain” helmer Anthony Minghella has included China on his promotional tour for the Civil War epic, set for release on the mainland at the end of the month.

Minghella and Renee Zellweger, who won a best supporting actress Oscar for her role in the film, made several appearances in the capital Beijing midmonth. This is one of the first times major Hollywood talent has made the effort to support a picture during its China release.

Last year, Warner Bros. suggested the leading actors in “The Matrix Reloaded” would tour the mainland as part of the release. Then came SARS, and all plans were canceled. By the time “Revolutions” took its globally synchronized bow, talk of visits by the stars had faded.

Hollywood films have been distributed in China on a revenue sharing basis since 1994, when “The Fugitive” was first to make it to the big screen. But with comparatively low levels of B.O., distribs have traditionally balked at bringing out their stars.

The numbers are getting better, however. The third installment of “The Lord of the Rings” is estimated to have grossed over $10 million on the mainland.

If the Minghella/Zellweger visit results in better-than-expected figures for “Cold Mountain,” they are unlikely to be the last big names to make the trek out here.

Plus, during the “Cold Mountain” tour, Minghella and his wife, producer Carolyn Choa, dropped in on old friend (and fellow director) Chen Kaige (“Farewell My Concubine”) on the set of his latest project, “The Promise.” Minghella and Choa are scouting locations for their next film, “The Firework-Maker’s Daughter,” based on a novel by Philip Pullman.

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