US, local film stars in talks on joint projects

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 December, 2007, 12:00am

Will Smith, Stephen Chow plan movies

Hollywood came to Hong Kong yesterday - and provided a match made in movie heaven.

Will Smith, one of the highest paid actors in Tinsletown, met Stephen Chow Sing-chi, Asia's biggest box-office draw, for lunch and the pair walked away with plans to work together on at least two productions over the next 12 months.

Smith has approached Hong Kong's Chow to direct, star in and produce a remake of the 1984 box-office smash The Karate Kid, while Chow in turn has asked Smith to feature in his latest version of the Wu Cheng'en classic Journey to the West.

Contacted last night, Chow said he was delighted with the offer from Smith, which came after he had sent the American a rough cut of his latest film, CJ7 - a father-son tale set around the Shenzhou space missions - which is due for a Lunar New Year release.

'I am very interested in Karate Kid,' Chow said. 'It would not matter if I was directing, acting or producing. It will all depend on timing, as next year I am very busy with my Dragon Ball and Monkey King projects.'

It is understood much of the Karate Kid remake would be shot in Hong Kong and on the mainland.

The news will come as a tremendous boost to the beleaguered local film industry - which has faced dwindling box-office figures and film production numbers over recent years - and follows hot on the heels of the city hosting scenes shot last month for The Dark Knight, the latest in director Christopher Nolan's Batman series of blockbusters, starring Christian Bale and Morgan Freeman.

Smith said he first became a fan of Chow's work after seeing a DVD of Kung-fu Hustle. 'He's a genius,' said Smith, in town for the Asian premiere of his latest film, I Am Legend. 'I am interested in people who are just different types of storytellers and Stephen Chow has such a different perspective, it's almost singular.

'There are no other people around of whom you might say, 'Oh, they make movies like Stephen Chow'. His view of things is singular. It is by meeting people like him that I am getting closer to being able to say what it is I want to say about the world and the universe we live in.'

The international, cross-market prospects of the duo working together are sure to have Hollywood studio heads drooling. Chow is the undisputed king of the Asian box office, having collected about HK$2 billion from hits such as Shaolin Soccer and Kung-fu Hustle. And Smith - the star of such blockbusters as Independence Day and Men in Black and who was paid US$28 million for his role in I, Robot - has drawn more than US$2 billion in box-office receipts through his career.

'We had lunch, it was our first meeting, but as I was in town I wanted to meet him face to face,' said Smith. 'We talked about a couple of ideas. It's early but that's how these things start.' Smith also confirmed he was in talks with China Films about a remake of The Karate Kid.

A connection with Smith would be in keeping with Chow's plans to increase his profile around the world. He recently announced plans for a big-screen adaptation of the internationally popular Japanese anime and manga series Dragon Ball.

Smith was at Times Square last night for the Asian premiere of I Am Legend, in which he plays the last man left alive after a virus sweeps the globe. The film opens on Thursday.