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Weinstein Co. Leaps Aboard Remakes of Shaw Bros. Classics

Martial arts titles to get English-lingo retread

HONG KONG — The Weinstein Co. has struck a two-picture deal with Celestial Pictures to remake a pair of classic martial-arts action films from the Golden Era of Hong Kong cinema.

The two companies will develop and produce English-language versions of “Come Drink With Me” and “Avenging Eagle.”

John Fusco, writer of TWC’s recent “Marco Polo” TV series and co-scripter of the upcoming “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon II: The Green Destiny,” will pen both adapted screenplays.
Production on both is expected to start in 2014 with Harvey Weinstein and David Thwaites set as producers.

Celestial Pictures is the Hong Kong-based company that was established in 2002 around the library of 760 Shaw Bros. films. It is controlled by Malaysian media conglomerate Astro Overseas.

TWC has been the North American home entertainment distributor of a large number of Shaw titles since Celestial started restoring, remastering and relicensing its back catalog. TWC has held remake rights to the pair since 2006, but has not moved far forward on development until recently. Celestial says it is in similar discussions with other A-list producers for remakes of other Shaw pics.

“There is a fan base for these films which we hope to increase [through the remakes],” said Celestial’s head of business and legal affairs, Kristen Tong. “We’ve always been very careful, but now we’ve finally met the writer who understands the Chinese dynamics of the stories. Their integrity is very important, these are our crown jewels.”

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TWC will be the lead creative partner, though Celestial is to be involved throughout development and production and retain an undefined back-end participation. Tong said it is “most likely” that Celestial will also be involved in the movies’ financing. Budgets are currently unspecified. “They are not some cheap interpretation, but neither will they be tentpole scale,” she said.

Originally directed by King Hu and released in 1966, “Come Drink With Me” involves an against-the-odds-fight by a female martial arts expert and a kung fu master disguised as a beggar who take on a band of outlaws that have taken prisoner a young official. It was the model for numerous other “wu xia pian” (heroic martial arts) films and the springboard to fame for the young Cheng Pei Pei, who later reprised a similar role in Ang Lee’s 2000 wu xia tribute “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

“Avenging Eagle,” a 1978 thriller, sees a cabal leader raising orphans to be his own personal thugs in an outlaw band called the Thirteen Eagles. But one of the orphans rebels, causing the rest of the gang to hunt him down. The original was directed by Sun Chung.

Celestial, which under previous management expanded into numerous other business sectors, has undergone a significant downsizing in the past two years, which Tong describes as a “strategic shake-up.” The company has hived off its four TV channels into the Saban-backed joint venture Celestial Tiger Entertainment. It has also halted production of TV drama and has eliminated distribution of third party titles. “We were never really ready till now,” she said.

The deal was negotiated by TWC’s David Glasser and Celestial’s Tong.

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