Getting such a potential big screen project within its grasp, Lionsgate has come onboard as domestic distributor of action epic "The Forbidden Kingdom", known previously as "Jackie Chan/Jet Li Project" or "Untitled J&J Project", Variety has learned.
The company thus will co-release the flick in the U.S. with The Weinstein Co. for a planned September 2008 release as well as distribute it in the U.K. while the other studio handles the distribution for Spain, France, and Latin America regions.
Marking the first onscreen collaboration between Jackie Chan and Jet Li, the picture is based on the Chinese legend of the Monkey King and concerns an American teen who gets transported back in time to ancient china after discovering the king's legendary stick weapon in a pawn shop. Li will play double role as the Monkey King and the silent monk while Chan will become another monk named T'sa-Ho.
Production on the movie is due to begin on May 2 in China with Rob Minkoff directing from an original screenplay by John Fusco and action choreographer Yuen Woo-ping handling the fight sequences. Casey Silver of Casey Silver Prods. will produce alongside Ryan Kavanaugh accompanied by Raffaella De Laurentiis and Lynwood Spinks who both are set to executive produce.
'The Forbidden Kingdom' has all the makings of a modern classic, and we are thrilled to fly its flag at Lionsgate," so Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer commented. "Casey Silver scored a real coup in bringing together two titans of martial arts, Jackie Chan and Jet Li, for their first onscreen pairing."