EXCLUSIVE: World-renowned actor and influential Hong Kong action filmmaker Donnie Yen is set to star in 87North and Universal Pictures’ Kung Fu, a feature adaptation of the classic ’70s TV series. Kelly McCormick, David Leitch, and Guy Danella will produce through 87North, with Leitch eyeing to direct.
Stephen Chin wrote the screenplay. Stephen L’Hereaux will also produce, and Ed Spielman, creator of the original Kung Fu television series, will executive produce.
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The original ABC series starred David Carradine as a master martial artist who fled China after his master was murdered. He wandered the Old West helping the downtrodden and weathering rampant racism while eluding assassins trying to kill him. He was a peaceful man until provoked, which happened at least once an episode.
With his ground-breaking work on and off camera, Donnie Yen is among the exceedingly few actors of his generation to work at the highest levels of both the Chinese and Hollywood film industries, which the studio saw as a huge factor when they offered him the role. Uni and 87North know how the original series has such a global appeal and knew they needed a star that had that same global reach leading it.
Executive Vice President of Production Development Matt Reilly and Director of Development Tony Ducret will oversee on behalf of the studio.
“Donnie Yen is both an immensely talented actor and an action film legend, and it is a privilege to have a true martial arts master leading this global film,” said Leitch With Donnie in place as our leading man, it will be a thrill to collaborate with him, our creative partners, and Universal in reimagining this beloved story for the big screen.”
Yen pioneered the depiction of Mixed Martial Arts moves in such films as SPL/Kill Zone and Flashpoint, while projects like Iron Monkey, Bodyguards and Assassins, Wu Xia and Kung Fu Jungle set a new standard for on-screen kung fu fighting. He has since become a major figure not only in Chinese Action Cinema but in motion pictures worldwide.
He also has the hugely popular and acclaimed IP Man film series, the American Box Office hits John Wick: Chapter 4, Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One and xXx: Return of Xander Cage for which Yen received rave critical and audience reviews. He also starred in the Disney Feature Mulan as well as the hit Asian films Dragon City and Raging Fire which he also produced.
Yen recently completed producing, directing and starring in the passion project Sakra, an adaptation of the classic Chinese novel Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils which Yen characterizes as one of the biggest challenges of his career.
Chin wrote War Dogs, starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller, and directed by Todd Phillips. He is currently writing an original espionage series for AMC. A long-time fan and student of classic martial arts films, he was asked to introduce the 40th Anniversary screening of Enter the Dragon at Warner Brothers Studios.
Yen is repped by Independent Artist Group and R&CPMK. Leitch is repped by CAA, Johnson Shapiro Slewett & Kole, and 42West. Chin is repped by Syndicate Entertainment.
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