Mystery man reshapes Lady of the Dynasty film

Updated: 2015-08-06 07:47

By Xu Fan(China Daily USA)

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Everyone wants to know: Who's Shi Qing?

The answer: "the big boss."

Few films have produced so many questions as romantic epic Lady of the Dynasty since the release of its directors list.

Shi has the final say over the three-person team, pared down from six, including art-house icons Jiang Wen and Gu Changwei.

Thing is, hardly anyone has heard of him.

The online rumor mill says he wrote two action thrillers in the 1980s before making Lady of the Dynasty his directorial debut.

The scripts he wrote were for the 1986 terrorism flick Crossing Border and the similarly themed 1989 film Code Name: Gugar.

But Shi isn't Lady's only enigma.

The 200 million yuan ($32 million) has captured Chinese headlines with the "odd" replacement of most of the original crew and leaked screen shots of a horseback sex scene.

ESA Cultural Investment producer and chairman Liu Yan recently revealed the personnel change's back story.

The idea for the film came in 2009 from a British scriptwriter fascinated with one of ancient China's notorious episodes, in which an emperor's infatuation with his son's wife brought ruin to the nation during the most prosperous period of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

South Korean filmmaker Kwak Jae-young - hailed as the "godfather of coming-of-age romance" - was brought on as the director. Japanese actor Oguri Shun and Hollywood star John Lone (The Last Emperor) joined the cast to give the film international appeal.

Kwak was soon fired, and the foreign actors were axed.

Liu says Kwak was "arrogant" and "distorted" history.

He cites as an example the director's insistence on including a mahjong scene, even though the game wasn't invented for another 800 years.

Over 40 million yuan was wasted.

Enter Shi, an old friend of Liu.

"I love the dynamics, openness and self-confidence the Tang Dynasty represents," Shi says.

"People of diverse faiths and ethnicities harmoniously coexisted in China over a thousand years ago."

But the buzz surrounding the film has failed to translate into sales.

Its box office has fallen nearly daily since its July 30 debut. It has only grossed 100 million yuan to date.

 Mystery man reshapes Lady of the Dynasty film

Left: Shi Qing (left) with actor/director Jiang Wen. Shi, barely known to the outside world, surprises all as director of the bigbudget movie Lady of the Dynasty. Right: The movie stars such Alisters as Fan Bingbing (right) and Leon Lai Ming (left). Photos Provided To China Daily

(China Daily USA 08/06/2015 page7)