Dueling Productions To Bring “The Monkey King” To The Big Screen

Film Will Star Chow Yun-Fat, Faye Wong, Donnie Yen And Aaron Kwok

Sun Wukong last appeared in the 2007 opera, "Monkey: Journey to the West" by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett

Sun Wukong last appeared in the 2007 opera, "Monkey: Journey to the West" by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett

Throughout the history of classical Chinese literature, few characters have proven as compelling to audiences in China and internationally as Sun Wukong, better known as the “Monkey King,” from the epic novel Journey to the West. From the 1970s Japanese television adaptation Saiyūki (Dubbed in English as “Monkey”) to the 2007 opera “Monkey: Journey to the West” by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, the Monkey King occupies a unique position in pop culture around the world.

Now, however, Sun Wukong is set to get the big-screen treatment back home, with Filmko and Mandarin Films announcing plans to co-produce The Monkey King, a 400 million yuan (US$60 million) 3D adaptation of Journey to the West featuring Hong Kong superstars Chow Yun-Fat and Donnie Yen. This will make The Monkey King the second most expensive Asian project in history, following John Woo’s 2008 blockbuster Red Cliff.

From the Hollywood Reporter:

Ip Man star Donnie Yen will play the title character and serves as action choreographer in The Monkey King, joined by Chow Yun-Fat (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End), Aaron Kwok (The Storm Warriors), Cecilia Cheung (The Promise) and Asian pop icon Faye Wong (Chungking Express) in her first acting role in six years. The film is produced by Ah Gan, helmer of the most successful horror film in China, The Game of Killing. Hong Kong director Cheng Poi-Shui (Accident) will helm from a screenplay by Edmond Wong, writer of Ip Man 1 & 2.

The companies had hired from Hollywood a part of the production team, to handle the 3D aspects and special effects in the film, including cinematographer Daniel Symmes, special makeup effects supervisor Shaun Smith (300, I Am Legend), and visual effects consultant David Ebner (Alice in Wonderland). Special effects shooting in 3D has commenced in Beijing, while full cast will begin filming in mid-November.

The Monkey King is based on the 17th century Chinese classic novel Journey to the West. The simian protagonist is set for cinemas in 2011. The Monkey King will be presented at the upcoming American Film Market and is scheduled for China and Hong Kong in July 2011.

As the Reporter goes on to point out, strangely enough, The Monkey King is not the only Journey to the West-themed film project on the horizon. The Hong Kong superstar Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle, Shaolin Soccer) has his own film in the works, a 60 million yuan (US$9 million) remake of 1994’s A Chinese Odyssey, which is set to begin shooting next February for a December 2011 release. Additionally, the Chinese TV producer Zhang Jizhong has announced he plans to create a three-part 3D film adaptation of Journey to the West in English.

Whether one, or all, of these projects actually makes a successful “journey to the West” will remain to be seen.

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