Steven Spielberg Eyes China Pic With Zhang Yimou — Report

Director said to favor modern themes; Chinese film-maker also readying local projects

Steven Spielberg Extant
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

HONG KONG — Steven Spielberg is reported to be interested in working with Chinese director Zhang Yimou on an international Chinese film.

“I would like to make a movie in China with my dear friend,” Spielberg reportedly told China’s official newspaper China Daily in a phone interview. “We would work together on an international film that could take place in China.”

Zhang, director of “Raise The Red Lantern” and “Hero,” is currently said to be eyeing “Quasimodo,” an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” as a musical film for Warner Bros., among other projects.

However, Zhang recently signed up as artistic director of LeVision Pictures, the movie production arm of Chinese online video group LeTV, and is also moving ahead with Chinese movie projects.

China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film & Television (SAPPRFT) recently approved the screenplay for “歸來” (a project which has no official English title but which translates literally as “Return”), which Le Vision says he will next direct for them.

“Return” is an adaptation of “The Criminal Lu Yanshi,” a novel by Yan Geling, author of the book that Zhang previously directed as “The Flowers of War” with Christian Bale in a starring role. The adaptation is penned by Zou Jingshi, who previously wrote Zhang’s “Riding Alone For Thousands of Miles.” The story follows an intellectual who is forced into marriage, flees to America and on his return to China is sent to a labor camp.

Spielberg is widely admired in China and Zhang and he have previously been linked — although abortively.

Spielberg was announced as artistic advisor to the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening and closing ceremonies alongside Zhang. In Feb that year, however, Spielberg very publicly resigned his role in protest at China’s alleged role in the massacres in the Darfur region of Sudan. The Chinese government hit back sharply saying “the Darfur issue is neither an internal issue of China, nor is it caused by China, it is completely unreasonable, irresponsible and unfair for certain organizations and individuals to link the two as one.” In the end Zhang put on triumphant Olympic ceremonies without Spielberg.

“I made ‘Empire of the Sun’ in Shanghai in the 1980s and want to come back one day to make a movie in China,” Spielberg was quoted by China Daily as saying. He said that he would be more interested by contemporary themes than historic ones.