The Weinstein Co. has locked in Gong Li and is negotiating with John Cusack to star in “Shanghai,” a period drama the studio hopes to make in China early next year.
Mikael Hafstrom, who helmed Cusack in the Dimension hit “1408,” will direct a script by Hossein Amini.
Cusack is in talks to play an American who returns to a corrupt, Japanese-occupied Shanghai four months before Pearl Harbor and discovers his friend has been killed. While he unravels the mysteries of the death, he falls in love and discovers a much larger secret that his own government is hiding.
Phoenix Pictures topper Mike Medavoy and Barry Mendel will produce, with Arnie Messer exec producing.
Project, which will shoot in Shanghai, is a longtime passion for Medavoy, and for Harvey Weinstein, who almost pulled the picture together in 2001 as director John Madden’s follow-up to “Shakespeare in Love.” Gong last starred in “Hannibal Rising” and the Zhang Yimou-directed “Curse of the Golden Flower.”
Medavoy, who also has an early 2008 start date for his Paramount project “Shutter Island,” which Martin Scorsese will direct and Leonardo DiCaprio will topline, was born in Shanghai and spent his childhood there until his parents fled to Chile before the Japanese invaded.
TWC declined comment.