Fri, Jul 16, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Taiwan to join Kiwis in making martial legend

'Lady White Snake' will have the largest budget of any Taiwanese movie ever made

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Richard Hou announces the co-production plan for Lady White Snake earlier this week in Taipei. The film will have a budget of US$40 million.


Taiwan-based Equinox Film and New Zealand Silver Screen Films on Monday announced a plan to co-produce the classic Chinese mythical tale Lady White Snake (白蛇傳) into an English-language drama that will combine martial arts, romance and mythical legends. Oktobor, Silver Screen's post-production wing which was involved in visual effects production for The Lord of Rings -- the Fellowship of the Rings, will take charge of the visual effects and animation work for the project.

The two companies signed the contract in Taipei on Monday, announcing the joint venture for the US$40 million project. Each side is responsible for raising 50 percent of the funds for the movie. If it proceeds as planned, the project will be the largest-budget movie in Taiwan's filmmaking history.

"We are very excited about this project. This joint venture has set up a framework for New Zealand and Taiwan filmmaking and we hope that this will help us move into a higher level of producing higher quality films," Lewis Holden, deputy minister of New Zealand's Ministry of Economic Development, said on Monday in Wellington through a video conference held in Taipei.

"We are pleased to be involved in this project," said Don Reynolds, CEO of Silver Screen Films. "When I read the story of Lady White Snake I was much intrigued and liked the story so much. For me, it's a good love story with well-developed characters," Reynolds said at the video conference.

The project was initiated two years ago by Richard Hou (侯德健), CEO of Taipei-based Equinox Films. Hou adapted the script from the Chinese-literature classic and transformed it into a love story.

Over the past two years, Hou took the script to Hollywood and Japanese studios. "In the end, we decided to work with Silver Screen Films because it had the offer that we thought most beneficial for Taiwan's film industry as a whole," Hou said.

According to the contract, apart from co-producing the film with Equinox, Silver Screen Films' post-production wing Oktobor will also help Dragon Digital, its post-production counterpart in Taiwan, to set up a production line for special effects work and 3D animation.

The benefit for New Zealand is that the project will follow the precedents of The Last Samurai and the Lord of the Rings movies and have the film shot entirely in New Zealand.

"We will re-create the Hangzhou West Lake and the Gold Mountain Temple in the story of the Lady White Snake in New Zealand," Hou said.

Lady White Snake will be the first English-language film adaptation of the legend. The tale is about a white snake fairy transforming herself into a beautiful woman who then falls in love with a young scholar. But the romance is forbidden by the human world and also hindered by a malicious Buddhist monk.

The first film adaptation of the story was the Japanese-language Madame White Snake (1956) by director Shiro Toyoda. In 1962, there was Mandarin Hong Kong movie of a similar story. The most recent adaptation has been Hong Kong director Tsui Hark's (徐克) Green Snake (1993), starring Maggie Cheung (張曼玉).

Because the movie will be in English, Reynolds said the cast would have to be internationally known actors.

According to Hou, the first candidate for the monk Fa-hai (發海), the Buddhist with supernatural powers, will be Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings movies.

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