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Major Marketing

November 22, 1987|Leonard Klady

Critics are raving about Bernardo Bertolucci's sumptuous epic "The Last Emperor"--but will they care in China?

It's the story of Pu Yi, the historic "last emperor" who came to the throne at age 3 in 1908 and died a gardener in 1967.

"Well, are we talking about the film's box-office or politics?" shot back producer Jeremy Thomas. "It took us two years to negotiate filming and to have the shooting script approved by Chinese authorities. (It was a major coup to be allowed to film in the Forbidden City.) We know they sanction the final film because they've OKed the dubbing of a Mandarin-language version which will be released there in February. We're going to the premiere, we just haven't been told the exact date yet."

Thomas noted that the first direct confirmation of Chinese approval occured only last week when the film was screened in Washington and a major official in the Chinese Embassy told him the government was ecstatic with the film--and despite touchy scenes involving nudity and lesbianism.

"Yes, and it will be shown uncut in what they call a regular release," added Thomas. "They have 100,000 screens in China, so their idea of a regular release is bigger than anything you see in America."

Actual box-office won't matter: Thomas negotiated a flat fee.

He added: "Joan Chen, who plays Pu Yi's wife, is their favorite actress. I figure with one-fourth of the world living in China that makes her the most popular star in the world."

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