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The international film business can bridge a lot of cultural divides But can it knock down one of the great walls of cinema culture — the one that stands between China and the U.S.?
China allows in precious few American movies every year, despite halting efforts to change that, and almost no Chinese blockbusters succeed in North America. But the people behind the Chinese epic “The Heroes of Nanking” hope their movie can help create a new pipeline.
The period drama, which tells of an American priest who puts his life on the line during the Nanking Massacre to shelter more than a dozen prostitutes and students, has roots in Chinese history and cinema. And it’s based on a popular Chinese novel. But it also stars a Hollywood leading man, Christian Bale, as the priest and is directed by Zhang Yimou, the award-winning filmmaker who came to mainstream prominence in the U.S. when he staged the pyrotechnics of the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony and has directed numerous films including “Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers.”
On Saturday afternoon at the Cannes Film Festival, filmmakers gathered at the city’s Majestic Hotel to tout the project, at a reception thrown by the newly hired U.S.-based sales agent, who has come on to help the film find distributors in the U.S. and around the world.
Zhang Weiping, who produced as well as financed the film, said that there was a social component to his piece of entertainment. “Chinese people love Hollywood movies, but in the West there are a lot of misconceptions about China,” Weiping told 24 Frames, speaking through a fellow producer, Chaoying Deng, who was translating. “We want this movie to give Americans and Europeans a perspective on China and Chinese cinema. We want to communicate with every race and people.”
Weiping said he wasn’t worried about the historical nuances being lost on a non-Asian audience. “It’s a story about heroism, and everybody can relate to that,” he said.
Bale has wrapped his scenes in the movie, which has a shooting schedule of Hollywood proportions — it began in December and finishes in mid-June. Nearly an entire period city was re-created in a neighborhood of Beijing; filmmakers are relying on physical locations over CGI to enhance the film’s authenticity.
While the U.S. has a long love affair with martial-arts films, historical and other forms of Chinese dramas have mainly been confined to a niche audience, along the lines of Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution” back in 2007. But filmmakers hope “Nanking” ushers in a new period. “It speaks a universal language, and that makes us hopeful,” Weiping said.
In an interview with NY Times, “Bridesmaids” co-writer Annie Mumolo revealed that instead of the scene where the bridesmaids get food poisoning while trying on dresses at a store, the plan was to include a Christian Bale (The Dark Knight) cameo.
“[In the original scene, Kristen Wiig's character is] fantasizing that she looks so good in this dress,” said Mumolo. “We had a sequence like a perfume ad, with her drinking tea and Christian Bale brushing her hair. It was girly in a way that felt expected.“
To get away from being too “girly,” producer Judd Apatow stepped in and suggested for all the bridesmaids to get food poisoning. “I wasn’t sure it would fit with the rest of the movie,” Wiig explained. “[But] Judd said, ‘Let’s just try it.’ And now people really respond to it.“
Last week, the unofficial “Official The Dark Knight Rises community” Facebook page contributed to a bit of controversy in the comic book movie fan community by reporting that title star Christian Bale had been spotted in Jodhpur, India, during the first day of filming on director Christopher Nolan’s third and final Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, despite information to the contrary from the HindustanTimes. No corroborating evidence turned up to support the rumor over the weekend, but TheTimesOfIndia reported yesterday that Bale shot a scene where his character, Bruce Wayne, was “carried into” and then came “jumping out of” the green screen “Lazarus Pit” that was first glimpsed last week. It’s said that he even left the set to venture into public areas when not shooting, but went unrecognized due to the fact he he wore a cap and had a beard. Bale apparently accompanied Nolan and actor Josh Pence on a chartered flight out of India on Monday.
Now, the “community,” which was criticized by some for failing to back up its claim that Bale was in India, has delivered to the fans some hard evidence about Nolan’s Indian shoot in the form of several new “spy” photos. Included in the collection by photographer Mehul Gohil are two new close-up shots of the green screen “Lazarus Pit” that was first revealed on Friday, a shot taken inside the Mehrangarh Fort depicting the “training arena” of the (presumably) League of Shadows, and last, but certainly not least, the first shot of Pence as a young Ra’s al Ghul, the character played by Liam Neeson in Batman Begins.
The Dark Knight Rises was written by Nolan’s brother, Jonathan, from an idea conceived by Nolan and David S. Goyer. The movie’s plot remains a mystery at this time, though Nolan has frequently discussed his desire to wrap up the story begun in Batman Begins, which would explain the return of Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Shadows. The cast includes Morgan Freeman, Sir Michael Caine, Nestor Carbonell, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Juno Temple, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Daniel Sunjata, Diego Klattenhoff, and Burn Gorman.
Well, this didn’t take long. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises started filming in Jodhpur, India today and we already have some leaked images of the set finding their way online. Leaked set photos normally don’t reveal much about a film, but what makes these interesting for any Batman fan is the inclusion of a green screen pool. The “green screen pool = Ra’s al Ghul’s The Lazarus Pit” theory found its way online the moment the photos popped up and it’s easy to see why so many fans have begun to speculate this given the recent news that Josh Pence will be appearing in the film as a young Ra’s al Ghul in flashbacks.
Hit the jump to see the photos and to read more about the Lazarus Pit along with what this could mean for Nolan’s final Batman film.
The photos come to us via CBM, who also provides some info on what exactly the Lazarus Pit is:
“The Lazarus Pit is mythical vats of arcane chemicals in the DC comics universe. The most common user of the pit is Ra’s al Ghul. Ra’s al Ghul accidentally discovered the first Lazarus Pit as a cure for the dying son of a sultan he worked for. The Pit had a terrible side effect, however; it turned the Prince temporarily insane, leading to him killing the doctor’s wife. After being blamed for the murder, the man who would become Ra’s Al Ghul was buried in the desert. He was rescued by a tribe and a boy named Huew. After this he used the Lazarus Pit to save himself, and vowed to avenge his wife. The doctor gave himself the title Ra’s al Ghul – The Demon’s Head.”
This is all just fun speculation for right now, but the inclusion of the Lazarus Pit does also fit into the earlier rumors that Marion Cotillard’s character, Miranda Tate, is actually a cover for Talia al Ghul. Given the scale and attention surrounding The Dark Knight Rises, I’m sure we will get more leaked set photos along with news debunking or confirming this rumor soon enough. Until then, we can continue to anticipate and speculate about what Christopher Nolan has planned for us before the film opens on July 20th, 2012. You can also click here to read more about The Dark Knight Rises.
Christian Bale has been praised by director Zhang Yimou.
The Oscar winner has left Hollywood behind to work on Chinese movie Nanjing Heroes – in which he plays an American priest.
And Yimou was impressed at how willing Bale was to work in an ‘alien’ environment.
Speaking to the Associated Press the filmmaker said: “An A-list Hollywood actor travelling alone to an alien country and an alien set, working and living for several months with several hundred foreigners he doesn’t know well – that is very incredible and very impressive to me.
“When I asked him for a certain kind of performance, he gave me three approaches. When I asked for three approaches, he gave me five.
“He always wanted to give me more, so I have a wider range of choices. His professionalism often touched me. He is a great role model for Chinese actors.”
Nanjing Heroes will be the first movie for Bale since his Oscar winning turn in The Fighter.
He is all set to reprise the role of Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises – the third film in the Batman series.
No official date was ever announced for the start of production on The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR), the sequel to The Dark Knight and the third and final Batman movie that Christopher Nolan will direct, but it was believed that it would begin shooting sometime in early May. Now, thanks to The Times of India, we know that TDKR will start filming on May 6th in Jodhpur, India, and shoot for two days. According to the report, Nolan’s production team will only consist of 15 crew members and one actor, title star Christian Bale.
The plot of TDKR is still a mystery so it’s impossible to know what Nolan and Bale will be shooting in India. Nolan has previously made several references to wanting to wrap up the storyline begun in Batman Begins, which could be referring to Bruce Wayne’s (Bale) journey to becoming Batman. In Batman Begins, Wayne travels to the Far East and becomes a thief—ironically, he is arrested for stealing boxes of goods from Wayne Industries, the company he owns—to learn how criminals think and act. While in prison, he is recruited by Ra’s al Ghul, as Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), to join the League of Shadows and learn the ways of the warrior. Given Nolan’s desire to wrap up the storyline, it would make sense then if the India scene showed more of Wayne’s journey to becoming Batman as a way to tie the movies together.
In addition to India, The Dark Knight Rises production will spend four to six weeks filming in Pittsburgh, which stands in for Gotham City, and is also expected to shoot scenes in New York City and London. The script was written by Nolan’s brother, Jonathan, from an idea conceived by Nolan and David S. Goyer. Joining Bale in returning are Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Sir Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth, Nestor Carbonell as the mayor of Gotham City and Gary Oldman as Commissioner James Gordon. New additions to Batman’s rogues gallery include Tom Hardy as the villain Bane, Anne Hathaway as cat burglar and love interest Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman and Josh Pence as the younger version of Ra’s al Ghul. Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Daniel Sunjata, Diego Klattenhoff, Burn Gorman and Juno Temple also star.
"Knight of Cups" (2013) Director: Terrence Malick Role : N/A Status: Pre Production More: Information | Images
"Lawless" (2013) Director: Terrence Malick Role : N/A Status: Pre Production More: Information | Images
"The Dark Knight Rises" (2012) Director: Christopher Nolan Role : Bruce Wayne/Batman Status: Post Production More: Information | Images
"The Flowers Of War" (2011) Director: Yimou Zhang Role : John Miller Status: Completed More: Information | Images
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