All the deal making between Chinese officials and U.S. movie studios during the American Film Market last spring appears to be paying off.
Universal Pictures has become the first major studio to co-produce a film with a Chinese partner. Universal, along with Beijing Film Studios, is currently shooting "Pavilion of Women," based on Pearl S. Buck's novel, in the Shanghai area.
Hollywood has been anxious to crack the vast Chinese market, which could be worth billions of dollars. China, however, has limited the number of Hollywood releases to about a dozen films a year. Because "Pavilion of Women" is a co-production with a Chinese company, it is exempt from these restrictions.
China has been sensitive to Hollywood films that are perceived as critical of the government and Chinese politics. One recent film that irked officials was Disney's "Kundun," a drama about Tibet's Dalai Lama. Buck's tale, written by Yan Lou and Paul R. Collins, should have none of these problems. It's a story about a missionary doctor, played by Willem Dafoe, who falls in love with Madam Wu, an aristocrat who begins to question the morality of traditional Chinese society. Lou plays Madam Wu.
Thomas Leong, CEO of International Pacific Artists, which represents the interests of the China Film Co-Production Corp. outside China, said the Universal deal was relatively easy to set up and is cost efficient compared with a film made in Hollywood.
"The fact that it is Universal is a wonderful step and a very encouraging sign," he said in an interview from Hong Kong. "The implications will depend on how well it does in China and outside (the country)."
Helping ensure the success of the film, he said, was the international mix of stars, like Dafoe and Luo, and director Yim Ho, an experienced filmmaker who has worked in the Hong Kong cinema.
"He knows what international film standards are," said Leong, adding that he anticipates another major studio co-production to be finalized within the next few weeks.
You know her striking face from films like "Wings of the Dove," but Helena Bonham Carter has had a difficult time getting people to pronounce her name properly in the United States. So how do you do it?
"You always stress the first syllables on the first two (words)," she explained. "Carter, well, you had a President Carter so that is never a problem."
The actress, who is starring in the upcoming film "The Fight Club" with Edward Norton, is promoting a new line of sport watches for Tag Heuer. She is one of many actresses who are replacing supermodels on the covers of fashion magazines.
"Actresses have a greater depth and recognition," said Susan Nicholas, Tag USA's president, "They are women of substance and have become role models who have complexity, strength and are not just pretty faces."
Mary Tyler Moore, whose earlier efforts to develop a reunion series based on her classic "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" never bore fruit, has signed a deal with the network to star in a two-hour TV movie based on the old CBS sitcom. The tentative airdate is spring of 2000.
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