×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Cannes: ‘Skyfire,’ China’s First Big-Budget Disaster Movie, Shopped by Meridian Ent. (EXCLUSIVE)

Chinese-based companies Meridian Entertainment and Base FX are shopping “Skyfire” at Cannes, China’s first big-budget disaster movie, about a volcanic eruption. The film is directed by British helmer Simon West (“Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” “Con Air”) and stars Britain’s Jason Isaacs, Wang Xueqi (“Iron Man 3”), Shawn Dou (“Wolf Totem”) and Hannah Quinlivan (“Skyscraper”).

“Just as ‘The Wandering Earth’ was the breakout film for the sci-fi genre, we hope ‘Skyfire’ can do the same for the disaster genre,” Meridian’s CEO Jennifer Dong told Variety. “The China market is finally sufficiently large that it can support the making of a big-budget special effects film like this one just for the local market, yet this kind of VFX-heavy film is also something that viewers worldwide can understand and appreciate. We hope we’ve shot a Chinese film for a global audience.”

The film tells the story of people at a tropical resort who get caught up in a volcanic explosion. It was originally slated for a July release, though a number of people involved in the production have expressed doubts that, given the amount of post-production left to do, it will be able to hit the mark.

Despite West in the director’s seat and numerous foreigners involved in below-the-line positions, the film, shot in Malaysia, is not a co-production. A number of the actors were bilingual, and so Meridian shot the entire film twice — once in Chinese and once in English, with the idea of releasing two different versions.

Dong plans to make “Skyfire” a trilogy, saying that a sequel’s script is already in the works, as are merchandise and theme-park attractions. Her company has been tight-lipped about the budget, but acknowledges that it went slightly over predictions. But hopes are high as they search for international distribution partners. “‘The Meg’ was just a shark,” Dong said. “Ours is a whole spouting volcano.”

The project was hatched five years ago by Base FX, which has a history of working with Hollywood on big projects such as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Transformers: The Age of Extinction.” The firm originally envisioned the film as a co-production that could showcase their effects work. Meridian came aboard later and redid the script, shifting the focus back to China. “If we first get a proper hold on the China market, the global market will naturally follow,” Dong said.

Another source close to the production noted: “The co-production idea came at a time when Hollywood and China were really excited about working together, but after the ‘Great Wall’ came the fear that with a co-pro you end up creating a product that no one really wants.”

“Skyfire” marks both Meridian and Base’s first foray into feature film production, an attempt that has been accompanied by a number of growing pains.

When VFX producer John Hughes, the Hollywood industry veteran who founded Rhythm & Hues and now runs Tau Films, came aboard, he found himself faced with a herculean task: “It looked like maybe there would be just four months to complete the sequences that Base had already started and do a third of the movie that they hadn’t even started yet. It seemed impossible.”

But he brought on three additional contractors (South Korea’s WYSIWYG, India’s Anibrain, Thailand’s Monk Studios), and the 1,800 VFX shots originally planned were cut by a third. “Of course story-wise, that makes it hard,” he said.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Costa Gavras

    Costa-Gavras and Cast on Nationality, Identity, and Cinema

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Though he’s been based in Paris since 1955 and came up through the French film industry, director Costa-Gavras has never forgotten his roots. “Those who are born Greek,” said the Peloponnese-born filmmaker at a Saturday press conference,  “stay Greek all their lives.” Related Legend Media Seeks Trio of West Australia-China Co-Productions (EXCLUSIVE) [...]

  • Lorene Scafaria, Jennifer Lopez. Lorene Scafaria,

    'Hustlers' Director Lorene Scafaria: 'We Wanted to Treat It Like a Sports Movie'

    The star-studded cast of “Hustlers” didn’t just become strippers in the empowering female-helmed blockbuster — they also became athletes. When speaking to “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast, at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month, “Hustlers” director Lorene Scafaria explained the extreme athleticism required of the movie’s leading actresses, who all had [...]

  • Jonathan Van NessLos Angeles Beautycon, Portrait

    Jonathan Van Ness Reveals HIV Diagnosis, Former Drug Addiction

    “Queer Eye’s” Jonathan Van Ness is getting vulnerable in his new memoir “Over the Top.” In a preview of his book with the New York Times, Van Ness opened up about his early struggles with sex and drug addiction as well as his experience with sexual assault, revealing that he was abused by an older [...]

  • 4127_D022_00003_RC(l-r.) Elizabeth McGovern stars as Lady

    Box Office: 'Downton Abbey' Dominating 'Ad Astra,' 'Rambo' With $31 Million Opening

    “Downton Abbey” is heading for a positively brilliant opening weekend after scoring $13.8 million in domestic ticket sales on Friday. If estimates hold, the feature film version of the popular British television show should take home approximately $31 million come Sunday, marking the biggest opening ever for distributor Focus Features and beating previous record holder [...]

  • Gully Boy to represent India in

    'Gully Boy' to Represent India In Oscars Race

    The Film Federation of India has chosen Zoya Akhtar’s “Gully Boy” as its entry in the Academy Awards’ international feature film category. The picture, a coming of age tale about an aspiring rapper in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum premiered at the Berlin film festival in February before opening to a wave of acclaim at home in [...]

  • Lucy-Lost

    Cartoon Forum: 30th Anniversary, Little Giants and New Generations

    TOULOUSE, France –  Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Cartoon Forum wrapped Sept. 19 having showcased the ever-growing strength of European animation. 85 projects were pitched from 24 countries at the co-production forum platform that played host to north of 1,000 investors, distributors and producers – a record number. Falling on French-speaking Belgium – Wallonie-Bruxelles – whose [...]

  • Renee Zellweger Rufus Wainwright Sam Smith

    Renée Zellweger: Judy Garland Was 'My Childhood Hero'

    Awards buzz is building around Renée Zellweger for her performance as Judy Garland, emerging as a frontrunner in the Oscar race for best actress. But for her, the real prize was paying tribute to Garland, of whom she’s been a lifelong fan. “Nobody was prettier, nobody sang prettier…the adventures she had, [she was] my childhood [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content