Building the Undersea Empire

small-posterWith 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:



Concept Art:





You can view more concept art in the Gallery.

CGI Creatures:





This entry was posted in Cryptozoology, Fantasy, Film, Giant Monsters, News, Pictorial art, Update. Bookmark the permalink.

131 Responses to Building the Undersea Empire

  1. deadpoet says:

    The Queen has arrived!!!! Olga finally got her flight. Shooting with her starts today.

  2. Pierre Bourdaud says:

    She is such a nice girl!!!

    Working with her has been a great pleasure…

    (BTW, I’m back!!! Yek yek yek!!!)

  3. Pierre – WELCOME BACK – What gives?

  4. Pierre Bourdaud says:

    Well, they didn’t want to pay for what I asked and they basically told me that they would change the script if I didn’t want to continue… It was just “up to me” to keep going or not…

    I talked a lot with Michael (who plays Dole) about the whole situation and we both figured out that we were in for the love of art more than for the love of money…

    The crew is really great, the new director is also a very nice guy and working with everyone has been such a pleasure that I decided to forget about the money and just continue to have fun… Plus I got to work with Olga who is one of the best actresses I’ve ever met. She’s also such a gentle and charming girl that when I was on set with her I couldn’t think of anything but how lucky I was to be in the cast of this film…

    So thank you again Jonathan for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this project… By the way, I really hope we’ll work again together one day.

  5. Antonio says:

    So do the mermaids really have legs or will they have a cgi tail added in post production?

  6. Pierre Bourdaud says:

    I think they will only have legs… I saw the first teaser and you can actually see mermaids swim from afar… I didn’t notice any fish tail…

  7. directorlawrence says:

    Antonio – you just have to see the movie — we all will…. I’ll buy the popcorn.

  8. Robert Hood says:

    Hey, guys, I put together article on the progress of the film based on things said here (anonymously, of course) and elsewhere, plus assorted pictures from an anonymous source. You can check it out here:


  9. Pierre Bourdaud says:

    Waow!!! You really did your homework Robert Hood… Thanks for sharing the pictures (BTW some people might get in trouble because of these). 🙁

  10. Robert Hood says:

    Pierre, I hope not. I didn’t use some terrific ones where I thought the source could be too easily identified. Most of them were run past the source, and a few others I just found on the internet in obscure places. Which ones do you think are the most dangerous? I don’t want to get anyone in trouble and would remove them…

  11. Pierre Bourdaud says:

    Well, as you can’t really tell who took the pictures I think that no one in particular could be sued, but the production might get a lot more strict on the set with the people who take photos. They already are… Theoritically here’s a 5000RMB fine for those who take pics on set. They used to be tolerant with featured actors but they won’t if they see that there are leeks…

    By the way, I have many production photos on my computer… If you want I’ll email them to you after the release of the film…

  12. Robert Hood says:

    Well, I hope I haven’t made things hard for anyone. I waited until the big show took place as the designs were pretty well revealed there.

    Thanks for the offer of pictures after the release, too, Pierre. That would be great. Hopefully there’ll be lots of interest in the film then.

  13. Pierre Bourdaud says:

    You’re welcome!

    By the way, thanks for the forum! 😉

  14. directorlawrence says:

    Hey Pierre – Yikes – I know for a fact that a couple of those pics were taken on my cam when I was there but Sooooo many of the cast and crew got copies from me before I left that it’s hard to say where they are coming from – I for one am happy to find these and to get some of them back because my hard drive with all my pics crashed when I returned to the states – so many memories lost – Id love to get copies of anything anyone has.

  15. Pierre Bourdaud says:

    Hi Jonathan! Sorry to hear about your loss… If you want you can send me your email to this adress:

    I’ll send you the pictures I have… 🙂

  16. deadpoet says:

    Well General Dole and the Ha Li King both wrapped yesterday. Rumor is the actors will all wrap by end of May.
    For all the trials, errors, power outages, bad food and delays it was a real blast to be part of this production and one year from now when this movie is released the only thing any of us will remember is that we were in it, look mom, that’s me, smile.

  17. Pierre Bourdaud says:

    Hey Deadpoet, hope you are not feeling too low… It’s usually how I feel when I’m done with a project (no matter how bad it is)… Let’s meet soon, ok?

  18. deadpoet says:

    Hey Pierre I think only you and I of all the cast and crew are the only ones sorry our parts are done. Yes I am depressed not to be painted green again. For me it was a dream come true. In the end everyone will forget what they bitched about and the only thing they will see is their faces on the big screen. Cheers my friend.

  19. Pierre Bourdaud says:

    I totally agree deadpoet… In fact I’m very impatient to see the movie but I wish we were still filming it… It’s weird but even though the make-up process was evreything but pleasant, I’m going to miss it.

    Well, maybe we’ll be brought back to life in the next episode… Who knows, I’ve heard the mermaids have a magical healing potion… 😉

  20. G. Cummins says:

    To Director Lawrence – I wanted to say it was a pleasure meeting you in auditions – I was actually offered one of the lead roles before you came on – but the producer and I/my agents spent 3 months making offers back and forth – I couldn’t agree because they would only offer a “total amount” but would give no beginning and ending dates – so we countered with just a weekly salary many times – and they didn’t want that – I knew why they wouldn’t do a weekly salary – because they had NO idea how long they would shoot – and in my experience – when the producer can’t be honest in the beginning there is a major problem. They offered me a salary for 2 weeks – then we got them to admit it “might be for a month”” then it “might be for 3 months” – so we countered for a 3 month total amount – they agreed -and then they called a week later and took their offer back and offered 1/3 of the last offer – and would make no committment of shooting time – so of course there would be no extended pay if shooting went long – they could have shot for a year – and they wanted me to accept a lump sum with no agreement to pay if they went beyond a date – that they wouldn’t give lol. It was insane – a joke. Reading earlier posts here – this was no surprise to me all the stories of how dishonest the producer was – I saw it in advance. When I auditioned later on for you – when you came onto the project – I was impressed – I don’t know if my negotiation run-ins with the producer had anything to do with not hearing back – but I knew you guys were in for a tough one. (I was the original actor offered the role of the Ha li King – before you came on). No hard feelings at all. I just saw that the production finally got going again with you at the helm – and I’m sure you did a great job with what you were given. Some of the stories I read above about the dishonesty of the producer didn’t surprise me at all. I have done many productions out of the country and in the USA for that matter that I could always tell how the shoot would go – by the nature of the producers’ and their ability to be legitimate. I hope you got what you agreed to anyway – and I would have liked to work with you – I was very impressed at the audition/s. Never have minded tough shoots – only thing that every bothered me was dishonesty by producers or production companies. All the best in your future endeavors. Can’t wait to see the film!

  21. Pierre Bourdaud says:

    Just checking the forum one more time… We are still waiting for the film to be released and I have to say that I’m very impatient! I might go and check this week how the CGI effects look like so far… I might give you all some more info soon…

    By the way, I ran into two of the “mermaids” the other day and they told me that Jiang was about to start the production of the second episode soon… They said he already contacted Michael French for it. Hmmmmmmmmm…

    I don’t know if it’s true or not but I seriously doubt it. The production didn’t have enough money to pay everyone (some actors are still waiting on their salary) and they’d start a second production without the release of the first movie?! Sounds weird but nothing surprises me anymore! Wait and see…

  22. inansatnek says:

    You certainly deserve a round of applause for your post and more specifically, your blog in general. Very high quality material

  23. trajin says:

    trajin here! Made another movie, one where i was a producer, and made sure everyone got paid, and were well fed.

    check it out!

  24. Jonathan Lawrence says:

    From what I hear and have seen on line – M. French did a wonderful job directing the rest of the film. I am curious to see how it will all come together.

  25. Pierre Bourdaud says:

    Yeah! I’m impatient too…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.