Sources: Undead Backbrain / Avery Guerra / Press Release
"Empires of the Deep" is without a doubt the most ambitious fantasy film that has ever been attempted in China, so it wouldn't be too surprising to assume that the project would run into a mountain of obstacles ever before filming was slated to begin.
Indeed "Empires" has already had a major casting change, Monica Bellucci replacing the disgruntled Sharon Stone as the Mermaid Queen, and director change, Jonathan Lawrence stepping in for the Frenchman, Pitof.
Due to this turmoil, filming was pushed back to November of 2009, and is now slated to be completed by late March of this year.
Here is a bit from the E-magine Studios press release about the film:
“Jonathan Lawrence is uniquely suited to direct this epic adventure,” said producer Mark Byers. “His previous films integrate visual effects seamlessly into the story instead of treating them like add-ons, and his global experience allows him to interface with the all-Chinese crew without a hitch.”
Written by Jiang Hongyu, and produced by Jiang, Byers, and Harrison Liang, the US $50 million (reports now have the films budget at $100 million) Empire of the Deep is set in ancient Greece and tells the story of a band of Greek sailors who discover a secret underwater kingdom of mermaids, and must join forces to combat a dark evil that threatens both mermaid and human civilizations.
Even though the story is set in the Greek isles, the picture will be shot entirely in China, on sound stages in Beijing, and exotic seaside locations in Fujian and Hainan provinces, making it one of the first Chinese productions based on an entirely Western story.
“It is an honor to be part of this groundbreaking production, and a great experience to work with such a world-class Chinese crew,” said Lawrence. “Mr. Jiang has an extraordinary vision, and I’m excited to bring his epic story to the big screen.”
Produced by Beijing production company E-magine Studios, Empire of the Deep features extensive visual effects that will set it on the level of a Hollywood studio production, further enhancing the picture’s uniqueness in Chinese cinema.
Actress Liang Yanfei, has been cast as the films heroine, or main mermaid as you will, alongside an international cast including Irishman, Tom Archdeacon and Alec Su.
Over the past decade Asian cinema has taken major strides in forming a solid base to compete with Hollywood, and with a good cast, creative creature design, elaborate sets, stunning effects, and a good story to work from, "Empires of the Deep" could end up being China's answer to "Avatar". Though it would be hard to gauge at this point how much, if any impact the film will have on the west, or international cinema markets.
At least, at this point, unless suddenly Jonathan Lawrence pulls out to shoot another American TV movie, or actress Monica Bellucci publicly disagrees with Chinese politics, "Empires" will continue moving along as planned and should finish on schedule. As it stands, that, in upon itself is an incredible accomplishment for a film that has been in a various states of flux since it was first conceived of way back in 2006.
For the early production artwork it is easy to see why visually, "Empires of the Deep" could be spectacular.
Here are a few examples:
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