Kwak to Direct Chinese Blockbuster Starring Fan Bingbing

      September 02, 2011 09:44

      Kwak Jae-yong

      "My Sassy Girl" director Kwak Jae-yong has been hired by China Film Group to direct a movie potentially starring two of China's biggest celebrities, Chow Yunfat and Fan Bingbing. This is the first time for a Korean director to helm a Chinese blockbuster.

      The movie, named "Yang Guifei," is scheduled to be released next year. Filming is due to begin in October and around 30 Korean staff, including the lighting director, will take part in its production.

      Fan will play Yang Guifei, the wife of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) who is known as one of the "Four Beauties of ancient China." Superstar Chow is among those being tapped to play the role of Xuanzong.

      Movie industry officials are referring to the production as a new type of venture in which Chinese capital and Korean software come together to take on the global movie market.

      The Chinese film market is growing at one of the fastest rates in the world, but is also extremely closed with only about 20 foreign movies allowed in its theaters each year.

      "China Film contacted me during the Jecheon International Music and Film Festival in the summer of 2010," said Kwak, 52. "I think they liked my movie 'My Sassy Girl,' while the popularity of my other movie, 'The Classic,' in China also helped."

      Hundreds of millions of viewers in China apparently saw "My Sassy Girl," which was released in 2001, although the primary means of viewing was on pirated DVDs.

      The production budget for the upcoming movie has been set at U.S.$15 million ($1=W 1,063), which means it needs to make almost $45 million at the box office in order to break even, considering marketing costs and proceeds for theaters. In China, a film of this size and scale is considered a blockbuster as the country only produces a few major motion pictures each year.

      Kwak said his sparing use of dialogue and affinity for using situations and music to appeal to the emotions of viewers may have been what drew the interest of the Chinese film company.

      "That is probably why many Asian viewers liked 'My Sassy Girl' or 'The Classic,' even though the language spoken in the movie was [not mandarin]," he said.

      When asked if he felt pressured to turn "Yang Guifei" into a hit at the box office, Kwak said, "If I succeed, then that could set the precedent for more opportunities for other Korean directors, so this is a very important project in my movie career."

      "I don't know how the Chinese movie industry will develop, but it could become a huge market that rivals Hollywood," he said. "I want to get more opportunities to direct Chinese movies."

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