With Jonathan Lawrence (see picture below) now firmly ensconced as director (despite some sources that still give Pitof the role, such as parts of the actual website), Empires of the Deep seems now on track. Filming was to begin on 20 November 2009 and set to end on 19 March 2010 — at least according to this casting call.
Producer Mark Byers has been quoted as saying that “Jonathan Lawrence is uniquely suited to direct this epic adventure. 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.” (Press release)
The press release continues: “Written by Jiang Hongyu, and produced by Jiang, Byers, and Harrison Liang, the US$50 million [or US$100 million according to Twitchfilm] 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.”
The undersea fantasy epic is being touted as the first film in the history of cinema to explore the mystical world of the merfolk — a world “inhabited by mermaids, giants, an evil mage and dozens of different undersea kingdoms and races: each with their own cultural traits.” (Facebook page)
It is a fantasy movie about magic and demons, with spectacular battles and an epic story transcending a thousand years.
Empires of the Deep will introduce audiences to an entirely brand-new style of huge action set-pieces, a host of fantastical creatures and amazing underwater fight scenes. It will combine mystery and intrigue with incredible sea battles.
A China / Hollywood co-production, Empires of the Deep (formerly known as “Mermaid Island”) has been in production since 2006, having undergone personnel changes and production upgrades of assorted kinds — such as the departure of former director Pitof (of Catwoman fame) thanks to some classic “creative differences” and the controversial removal of Sharon Stone from the cast after the US star made some indiscreet political statements about aspects of China’s foreign policy. Ambitions for the CGI extravaganza have also escalated. It is now being seen as “the first movie in a planned movie franchise including comic books, animation and online games: all of which are currently under development. Other derivative products such as gifts and theme parks are also planned.”
The Facebook synopsis reads:
The protagonist of Empires of the Deep is a young man with a hidden power. After a local temple is ghosted away overnight, he begins an epic search that leads him to an encounter with the mysterious mermaid Aka. Their meeting triggers an unforgettable series of events that shakes the mermaid world to its very foundations.
On the mermaid side of things at least (the rest of the cast being largely ignored in existing promotional material), the film stars Monica Bellucci as the Mermaid Queen (first below) and Yan Fei as the film’s main aquatic protagonist (second below) — who together cover the gauntlet of cinematic feminine allure from sexy to cute:
You can view more concept art in the Gallery.
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- Sources: Press Release; Official website; Facebook page; IMDb entry; Twitchfilm; http://4.bp.blogspot.com