Unlike most young Asian pop idols, Taiwanese singer Jay Chou Jie-lun has resisted the pressure to double up as a movie star - until now. After turning down scores of film offers, Chou has finally agreed to star in Tsui Hark's upcoming street-racing action drama, Initial D. The US$7 million film, which is set to start shooting mid-March, is based on a best-selling Japanese manga of the same name. The 'D' of the title stands for drifting - as in a style of motor-racing (and not, as Close-up initially assumed, the art of moving from place to place without any visible means of support). Born on the treacherous mountain roads of Japan and now spreading to all countries that possess hairpin bends, the sport of drift racing involves controlling a car while it's sliding sideways around a corner. The point of drifting is not to get to the finish line in the shortest time possible, but to get there in as much style as possible without setting your wheels on fire. Enthusiasts describe it as like surfing in a Mazda RX-7. Chou has signed up to play the hero, Tak, a teenage tofu delivery boy who unintentionally becomes a master drifter while doing his rounds. He quickly comes to the attention of two brothers - to be played by Edison Chen Koon-hei and Shawn Yue Man-lok - who have adopted a scientific approach to drifting, studying both the cars and the techniques. The brothers challenge Tak to a race and before long he becomes a champion of the drift racing scene. So far, Chou has only guest-starred in one film, Aubrey Lam's Hidden Track, choosing to concentrate on his successful singing career rather than acting. But he says he made an exception for Initial D on the advice of a close friend. 'We thought the character in the manga describes Jay to a tee, but everyone said he didn't want to do movies,' says Nansun Shi, who is producing the film with Tsui Hark, her husband, for Hong Kong studio Media Asia. 'We went to see him anyway and he said that two years ago, a close friend told him he'd just seen a role that was perfect for him if he ever wanted to go into film. The role was Tak in Initial D.' Tsui Hark plans to shoot the film almost entirely in Japan to stay true to the spirit of the manga and top-rating TV anime series. 'At first we were going to shoot half the film in Qingdao in China, but Tsui went to check out the real locations and once he'd been there said we couldn't shoot anywhere else,' says Shi. 'He found the exact tofu shop and the petrol station that feature in the manga. Obviously the writer had been on location to do his research. So we want to replicate the manga exactly, because that's what the fans really want to see.' The film will start shooting amid the snows of Mount Akina in Gunma prefecture, the site of Initial D's most gripping races, before heading south to several other Japanese locations. Shooting in Japan is expensive, hence the film's above-average budget, but as drifting has become a phenomenon all over the world, the film is likely to find a wide audience. In the US, where drift competitions are held in California and Hawaii, you can buy English translations of Initial D along with models of Tak's car - a Toyota AE86 Trueno. Drifting also features in French movie Taxi, produced by Luc Besson, which proved a minor hit in Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan. Although Hong Kong is not known as a hotbed of fast and furious street racing, there's also a drift scene in Yuen Long, and some of the drivers have been advising on the film. 'Some of the Hong Kong drivers have been to Japan to learn from the great masters, and they're really keen to help us,' says Shi. 'We may even use some of them in the film.' The action choreographer, Chin Ka-lok, is a former racing driver, of the old-fashioned rally variety. Once Initial D is in the can, Tsui Hark plans to direct a wuxia film and spin-off TV series, Seven Swords, starring Tony Leung Ka-fai and Charlie Yeung Choi-nei. Based on the martial arts novel by Liang Yusheng, Seven Swords Of Mount Tian, the film traces a group of swordsmen as they attempt to rescue Ming Dynasty rebels who are being killed off by Qing forces. Production on the Putonghua- language film is expected to start in China in the second half of the year. 'The film industry here is becoming a bit more sophisticated and following the Disney studio model,' says Shi. 'We're planning a movie, TV series, game and manga, all at the same time.'