Masters of Universe: Benny Chan's new project + Pang brothers' INFERNO 3D & more (FILMART 2012)
FA: It's been three years since the Pang brothers signed a 10-year contract with Universe?
MS: Yes. Their collaboration will be beneficial to each other. Under Universe they have the freedom to do the projects they want to try to do, like INFERNO 3D a disaster film. They have never made that kind of film before. It is one of the two big projects that we announced this year at FILMART. It is an $18 million US budget film, the hightest budget movie ever made by Universe, even more expensive than THE STORM WARRIORS. INFERNO is still in pre-production but we have already confirmed that the cast includes Lau Ching-wan and Louis Koo. It is the second movie made by the Pang brothers in 3D; the first one was CHILD'S EYE, a horror film.
FA: The poster that you're showing at Filmart makes us think it's a kind of sequel to Johnnie To's LIFELINE, with Lau Ching-wan as a fireman. Is this the case?
MS: No. It's a temporary key-art that we prepared before FILMART. We used some of his old movie images but that's just a way to remind people what Lau Ching-wan did before. Because that film is one of his classics, right? I think that it will be an interesting partnership between him and Louis Koo who is, like him, a major Hong Kong actor now.
FA: "Inferno 3D" will be co-produced by Mainland Chinese companies?
MS: Yes, we have some investors from China which is a very important market, of course. We also have some stars from Mainland China like Wang Xue-Qi from BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS and Wang Bao Qiang who recently acted in Dante Lam's FIRE OF CONSCIENCE. They are both very popular now in Mainland China.
FA: It's only been one day since the beginning of FILMART, but can you tell if you already have people interested in the INFERNO project?
MS: Definitely. Everybody who comes to our booth asks us about INFERNO and the new Benny Chan project, the untitled one, which is about drug trafficking. It's a modern cop action movie, and people have been looking forward to this movie. Those are basically the two movies that people are showing a big interest in.
FA: What about the 3D trend? It started, I suppose, with the success of AVATAR?
MS: That's true but in Mainland China there's still a high demand for 3D movies, especially the high budget, big scale 3D films. And as we remember, they have done martial arts films in 3D but not disaster films. So I think that the combination of fire and 3D will be very interesting. And that's why it will take a year to do the post-production.
FA: What is FAIRYTALE KILLER about?
MS: It's a solo project from Danny Pang; a suspense thriller which will be released this May in Hong Kong. It stars Lau Ching-wan and Wang Bao Qiang again. And also our own actress Elanne Kwong, who is one of the female leads in CHILD'S EYE. This one is quite interesting for the overseas distributors as well because the storyline is very clear. It's about a detective, played by Lau Ching-wan, who has to investigate serial killings done in a fairytale way, but also a bloody way, a brutal way. Lau Ching-wan knows who is the murderer is from the beginning. It's like a cat and mouse game where good and evil fight against each other. This one has a $3.5 million US budget. They shot it in Thailand.
FA: ...a country where the Pang brothers have often worked since the beginning of their career...
MS: Yes, Danny and Oxyde Pang worked with a Thailand crew for many years, so they feel comfortable there. The production and the post-production from Thailand are high quality.
FA: Tell me about CONSPIRATORS.
MS: Do you remember THE DETECTIVE and THE DETECTIVE 2 by Oxyde Pang? This is like the finale of the whole "Detective" film series. We changed the name to CONSPIRATORS because the producer wants to differentiate this movie from the previous two, even if they were well acclaimed. But for this one, the final one, the production budget is higher. It is $5 million US and we have another major actor in this film: Nick Cheung, who is such an awesome actor. The chemistry between Aaron Kwok and Nick Cheung, who are both award-winning actors, should be something that the audience can look forward to. We are still shooting the movie in Malaysia, Thailand and Mainland China. We just got a rough promo ready right before FILMART.
FA: Did the first two "Detective" movies have good distribution in other countries?
MS: Yes, in the Asian territories mostly. We sold THE DETECTIVE to Japan, which for example is a very tough market. Part 2 was released last year in Hong Kong, so we are still working on the Part 2 sales this year at FILMART.
FA: Why is there still no title for the new Benny Chan project?
MS: The main cast is not yet confirmed, and we don't want to confuse the buyers with a title that maybe misleads them.
FA: But there will be big explosions as usual, and non-stop action?
MS: As always.
FA: The Pang brothers are also preparing a new project named THE EXORCIST?!!
MS: Yes. We'll have to announce it a little bit later because the Pang brothers are focusing on INFERNO now. THE EXORCIST will be a more traditional horror film like THE EYE. For this one, they don't want to play with 3D; they'll try to go back to the basics. We'll have Charlene Choi in it as the leading actress.
FA: What is your opinion concerning this year's FILMART?
MS: To us, FILMART is always a good market. As long as the buyers come to Hong Kong, they definitely have to meet with all the Hong Kong companies. That why we set up such a big booth and launched many new titles at FILMART: in order to pitch the pre-sales in Southeast Asian territories. The result is quite good. I think we can already do some pre-sales for the new projects here in Hong Kong.
Interview conducted by Frédéric Ambroisine at FILMART on March 20th, 2012. Edited by Sylvia Rorem. Cross-published on AlineNotDead.