Production of the long-in-the-works movie version of "Memoirs of a Geisha" will begin next month in Los Angeles and Japan with Rob Marshall in the director's chair, Columbia Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures announced.
Chinese-born Zhang Ziyi of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" will play the title role of the young girl Sayuri who becomes a geisha, and Japanese star Ken Watanabe, who appeared as the title character in "The Last Samurai," will portray the businessman with whom she falls in love.
Rounding out the principal cast are Chinese star Gong Li and Japanese actors Koji Yakusho and Youki Kudoh. The screenplay was adapted by Ron Bass, Akiva Goldsman and Robin Swicord.
Marshall's participation had been held up because Miramax had a contractual option for Marshall to direct another film as part of the deal under which he was hired to direct the hit movie version of the musical "Chicago." Marshall is now in negotiations to determine what project will fulfill his obligation to Miramax after he finishes "Geisha." The companies involved did not disclose whether Miramax extracted concessions from production partners Columbia and DreamWorks in exchange for letting Marshall off the hook to work on "Geisha." Spyglass Entertainment Group is teamed with the studios on the film.
Steven Spielberg initially was going to direct "Geisha" but subsequently turned his attention to other movies. Other directors who considered taking on the bestselling novel by Arthur Golden included Spike Jonze and Kimberly Peirce. Spielberg remains on the project as a producer with Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher.