Getting one phone call from Harvey Weinstein would be enough for many actors to commit to a role. But it took one phone call a week, for several weeks, to get martial arts star Donnie Yen to commit to the Weinstein Co.‘s “Crouching Tiger, ” sequel.
“At first I was a little hesitant,” Yen said during a discussion with Weinstein and director Yuen Woo-Ping at the Cannes Film Festival on Sunday.
The kung-fu expert, who has shown off his skills in pics like the “Iron Monkey” films, praised the original 2000 “Crouching Tiger,” and said he had concerns about how to improve on it. Eventually, though, Yen said that “as an actor,” he couldn’t pass up the challenge.
Weinstein’s love of Asian cinema and martial arts is well-known, and he talked about being influenced by Akira Kurosawa.
Weinstein said that when the legendary Japanese director came to the U.S. to promote “Dreams,” he mentioned how he, in fact, was influenced by the Irish-American director John Ford.
“We put a little John Ford into the script,” Weinstein said of the “Crouching Tiger” sequel. “There’s a warmth to (it).”
Production begins in March, but not with its original director Ang Lee. And while Weinstein praised Lee and his work during Friday’s event, he talked about the benefits of switching up directors and expressed full confidence in Woo-Ping, a martial arts master who worked as an action choreographer on the first film.
“Sometimes when the same director does a franchise, the second one is (a little) wobbly … then they come back and kill it on the third one,” he said.
The “Crouching Tiger” sequel is based on the novel “Iron Knight, Silver Vase” by the late Chinese writer Wang Dulu, who wrote the “Crane-Iron Pentalogy” that also including “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” The second film will bring back cast member Michelle Yeoh. “Hidalgo” scribe John Fusco is writing the script.
Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was an unexpected hit, grossing more than $200 million worldwide on a budget of about $15 million.