BIRTH OF THE DRAGON Begins Production. The Story Behind The 1960s Fight Between Shaolin Master Wong Jack Man & Bruce LeeTweet
George Nolfi to Direct a Script by Academy Award nominees Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen J. Rivele.
Film Centers around Legendary Fight that Launched Bruce Lee to Martial Arts Stardom; Academy Award nominee Michael London producing through his Groundswell banner.
Principal photography begins on November 17 in Vancouver, British Columbia, of Groundswell Productions’ BIRTH OF THE DRAGON. George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau) will direct the martial arts action tale, which tells the story behind the legendary 1960s fight between Shaolin Master Wong Jack Man and the young Bruce Lee.
The international cast is headed by Tony Award nominee Billy Magnussen (Into the Woods, Bridge of Spies and the FX pilot Snowfall) as Steve McKee. The film recreates the mid-1960’s fight between Lee and Wong from the point of view of a young martial arts student whose allegiance became torn between Lee and Wong Jack Man. To this day, people still argue about who won the famous fight, but one thing is certain: after his battle with Wong, Bruce Lee reinvented himself and his style of kung fu.
Mainland Chinese actor Yu Xia (In the Heat of the Sun, The Painted Veil) will play Wong Jack Man. The 75-year-old Wong, who remained silent about the fight for many years, currently lives in the Bay Area, and retired from teaching martial arts in 2005 after 45 years.
Hong Kong-born Philip Ng (Once Upon A Time in Shanghai, Vegas to Macau) will play Lee. Ng was raised in Chicago where his family owns a successful martial arts studio. In his early twenties, after obtaining a master’s degree in Arts Education from the University of Illinois, Ng changed his plans and returned to Hong Kong to pursue a career in martial arts films.
Chinese actress Jinging Qu (Old Boys: The Way of the Dragon, Journey Through China) plays Magnussen’s love interest, Xiulan. The movie’s villain, a ruthless crime boss named Auntie Blossom, will be played by iconic Chinese artist, opinion leader and television host, Jin Xing.
The script was written by Academy Award nominees Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen J. Rivele (Nixon, Ali, Ferrari).
The film’s action sequences will be designed by renowned martial arts choreographer Corey Yuen, a graduate of the Peking Opera School. Yuen gained fame in American cinema beginning with the 1998 film Lethal Weapon 4, followed by the 2000 blockbuster X-Men and six of Jet Li’s American works, including Romeo Must Die and The Expendables.
Financed by Kylin Films, BIRTH OF THE DRAGON is being produced by Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner Michael London and his producing partner Janice Williams, along with Wilkinson, Rivele and Kylin’s James H. Pang. Leo Shi Young, David Nicksay and Nolfi are executive producers, and Helen Y. Zhong, Jaeson Ma and Joel Viertel (who is also editing the film) are co-producers. Kylin was represented in the financing transaction by Ed Labowitz of Alexander, Lawrence, Frumes & Labowitz, LLP, and Groundswell by David Boyle.
“We’re thrilled to be telling one of the great untold stories in martial arts history, especially at this unique moment when China and Western audiences are opening up to each other as never before,” said London. “To work with a Chinese film company like Kylin on a story that has so much significance in China has been a wonderful collaboration, and, we hope, the first of many.”
Said Nolfi, “BIRTH OF THE DRAGON is a rare opportunity to make an action film with rich characters based on real events and real people. It’s a story about people from the East and West transcending their differences to work together, which is obviously a very timely story.”
Groundswell Productions is an independent financing and production company founded by Academy Award nominated producer Michael London. Groundswell has produced 13 films since its inception, including MILK, THE INFORMANT!, WIN WIN and THE VISITOR. Its films have garnered nine Academy Award nominations. SIDEWAYS received numerous honors, including five Academy Award nominations and one Oscar, the Golden Globe for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy), the Spirit Award for Best Picture and the Palm Springs Film Festival award for Producer of the Year.
Groundswell’s current releases include TRUMBO, starring Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, John Goodman, Louis CK, and Helen Mirren; and LOVE THE COOPERS, starring Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Marisa Tomei, Amanda Seyfried, Olivia Wilde, Ed Helms and Anthony Mackie. Critically acclaimed THE FINAL GIRLS opened earlier this fall. Groundswell is in post-production on CONFIRMATION starring Kerry Washington and Wendell Pierce. Upcoming projects include DESIRED MOMENTS, the debut of acclaimed commercial and video filmmaker Tom Kuntz.
On the television side, Groundswell is in production on the SyFy series MAGICIANS based on Lev Grossman’s bestselling book trilogy, which will premiere in January 2016. Additional TV projects include the FX pilot SNOWFALL, co-created and directed by John Singleton, and THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB. The half-hour tech comedy BETAS, Groundswell’s first foray into TV, aired on Amazon in 2014.
Kylin Pictures is one of China's leading entertainment companies focused, on producing timeless IP for the global film marketplace. Headquartered in Beijing and Shanghai, and with offices in Los Angeles, Kylin undertakes film and television development, financing, distribution, and talent management. As a well-respected bridge between the American and Chinese film industries, Kylin specializes in the creation and execution of co-productions. Kylin’s CEO & Chairman, James Pang, is one of the leading film producers in China.
Kylin established its international footprint with its first co-production, The Moon and The Sun. A fantasy film set in seventeenth century France, The Moon and The Sun, stars Pierce Brosnan, William Hurt and Fan Bingbing, and was produced with Pandemonium’s Bill Mechanic, the former Fox executive.
Prior to this, Kylin had substantial success domestically in China with its acclaimed fantasy film, Painted Skin: The Resurrection. It became the first Chinese movie to make over 100 million USD at the Chinese box office (over 1 billion RMB.)
Kylin is now developing a slate of co-production films with Hollywood studios and production companies. Its creative development team and investment group are actively seeking U.S. productions to invest in, with ambitions ranging from leading independent films to high-budget family blockbusters.
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