Friday, November 04, 2005

Gaga digs into 'Banquet'

By PATRICK FRATER, Fri., Nov. 4, 2005, 8:06pm PT

Gaga Communications has bought Japanese rights to mainland Chinese movie "The Banquet," which reunites many key elements from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" around star helmer Feng Xiaogang.
Deal, understood to be in excess of $5 million, is said to be the biggest Japanese buy of a Chinese film. Ziyi Zhang and Ge You star in the period pic, loosely inspired by "Hamlet." Currently shooting in Beijing, it is expected to wrap by January.

Production budget is some $20 million, put together by the Huayi brothers from China and Hong Kong's Media Asia, with the latter taking the foreign sales role. Deal was concluded by Media Asia topper Peter Lam, Gaga chairman Tom Yoda and Gaga CEO Yasuhide Uno.

With the Japanese deal now in place, Media Asia expects to be able to coordinate a full pan-Asian release close to Christmas 2006.

Chinese martial arts master Yuen Wo-ping is choreographing the action sequences. Tim Yip designed the sets, and Tan Dun is committed to scoring the film. Trio worked on Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," with Yip and Tan winning Academy Awards for their efforts.

Media Asia previously repped Feng's "A World Without Thieves" as co-financier and foreign sales agent for Huayi. Media Asia and Gaga recently worked together on Japanese-language co-production "Initial D."

Ge, winner of the actor prize at Cannes in 1994 for Zhang Yimou's "To Live," is a Feng regular. He has appeared in six of the director's pics, including "Big Shot's Funeral" and "Cell Phone."

Zhang will next be seen in Japanese helmer Seijun Suzuki's "Operetta Tanuki Goten" ("Princess Raccoon") and Rob Marshall's "Memoirs of a Geisha," for Spyglass Entertainment.

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