Taming ‘Tiger’ on stage

Weinsteins acquire rights to Wang's 'Crane' series

Bob and Harvey Weinstein are planning to bring a legit version of martial arts pic “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” to the stage, and are also developing the five books that encompass “Tiger” as a film franchise of three prequels and a sequel.

The sibs have acquired worldwide rights to develop and produce a stage adaptation of Chinese author Wang Du Lu’s “Crane — Iron Pentalogy,” a series of tomes that includes “Tiger” as its fourth installment.

“Tiger” would serve as the first planned legit production to be culled from the book series. Harvey Weinstein said that he envisions the project as a “combination spectacle and musical with a cohesive (storyline).”

He added that the stage version would be akin to “Cirque du Soleil with a pronounced narrative, featuring the greatest martial artists.”

The original “Crane — Iron” books comprise five martial arts novels that follow the adventures of three generations of related protagonists during the Qing dynasty. Titles include “Crane Frightens KunLun,” “Precious Sword,” “Golden Hairpin,” “Sword Spirit, Pearl Light,” “Tiger” and “Iron Knight, Silver Vase.”

As for the films, the projects would be Chinese language, and Weinstein said he would like to approach original “Tiger” helmer Ang Lee and producer Bill Kong about coming on board. “Tiger” would not be remade as part of the series, and the Weinsteins have not chosen which book would serve as the basis for the first project.

Bob Weinstein stated, “In our efforts to continue developing strong roots in Asia at the Weinstein Company, we see these projects as an avenue to nurture new relationships and discover fresh talent.”

The complex deal to nab rights to the “Crane — Iron” books from the author’s son, Hong Wang, was put together by Grace Chen, director of William Morris China, and Ji Xiang of Fangda Partners, and the Weinsteins are currently in talks to create a Chinese film fund.

“(‘Crouching Tiger’) was one of the most successful foreign-language films of all time, and there is a whole world of material in all of these books that can be explored in a series of great films, much like the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy,” said Harvey Weinstein. “Theater audiences should have high expectations for the spectacle that this extraordinary material can bring to the stage, and I think this is an opportunity to create something revolutionary.”

Helmer Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger” film grossed $128 million domestically in 2001. Pic was distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.

Harvey Weinstein was hospitalized back when the rights to “Tiger” were acquired, and his Miramax banner missed out on the project as a result, he said. “That has irked me ever since,” he quipped. “We are now being united to what we should have been doing years ago. I am surprised that no one would do another (sequel), and I always thought there would be an opportunity.”

At Miramax, Weinstein released such martial arts pics as the Jet Li-starrer “Hero,” Jackie Chan vehicle “The Legend of Drunken Master” and the “Kill Bill” pics.

The Weinsteins have previously been producers on such legit titles as “The Producers,” “The Color Purple,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” Baz Luhrmann’s “La Boheme” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” They’re currently developing Roger Water’s “The Wall” as a musical, and also own legit rights to previous Miramax films “Finding Neverland” and “Chocolat.”