Wu Jing, the highest-grossing male actor of all time in China, will join British action star Jason Statham in Warner Bros.’s “Meg 2: The Trench,” sources close to the production have confirmed to Variety.
The giant shark actioner, however, will be without Li Bingbing (“Transformers: Age of Extinction”). The Chinese actor, who played a female oceanographer, embodying both brains and beauty in Jon Turteltaub’s testosterone-fueled 2018 “The Meg,” is not returning to the franchise at this point.
With Ben Wheatley in the directing chair, production on “Meg 2: The Trench” began at the end of January at the Warner-owned Leavesden Studios outside London. It will continue there until May before switching to outdoor locations, likely to be in Asia.
The 47-year-old Wu is a former martial artist who has successfully parlayed a career as both actor and director in film and in TV. A protégé of the iconic action choreographer Yuen Woo-ping, Wu enjoyed early success in Hong Kong-made titles including “SPL” (2005) and “Invisible Target” (2007) and had a minor role in 2008’s “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” behind Brendan Fraser and Jet Li.
Wu wrote and directed mainland Chinese actioner “Wolf Warrior” in 2015, which earned a decent $80 million at the Chinese box office. But the concept turned to gold two years later with the even more patriotic and bloodthirsty “Wolf Warrior II” which grossed $870 million. The franchise was so successful that it gave its name to China’s current uncompromising form of diplomatic relations.
Since 2017, Wu has starred in or featured prominently in seven movies that have each topped $100 million at the box office, including ground-breaking Chinese sci-fi title “The Wandering Earth” and propaganda anthologies “My People, My Country” and “My Country, My Parents.”
Since October, Wu’s two latest films, all-time Chinese record breaker “The Battle at Lake Changjin,” and currently on-release “The Battle at Lake Changjin II,” have together grossed more than $1.4 billion.
“There is no female Chinese lead this time, but there is Sophia, the teenage daughter, lots of women and an incredibly diverse cast.” In “The Meg,” Cai Shuya (aka Sophia Cai) played the daughter of Li’s oceanographer character.
“The Meg,” in which Statham battled a monstrous prehistoric shark after it emerged from the world’s deepest ocean trench, is based on Steve Alten’s 1997 book “Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror.” The screen adaptation was written by Dean Georgaris, Erich Hoeber and Jon Hoeber who have also returned for the sequel.
Statham will next be seen in “The Expendables 4” and Guy Ritchie’s “Orson Fortune,” in which he plays a private contractor hired to stop a billionaire arms dealer from selling a deadly new weapon that could potentially destroy the world. He is also set to star in “The Bee Keeper,” written by “Salt” screenwriter Kurt Wimmer.
Wu is confirmed to star in “Wandering Earth II” and is reported to be preparing a “Wolf Warrior III.”