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Weinstein Ends Collaboration on Release of Chinese Movie

December 29, 2005|Robert W. Welkos | Times Staff Writer

Former Miramax Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein, who spent seven months collaborating with the producers of the Chinese fantasy epic "The Promise" on its upcoming North American release, pulled out of the project, according to co-producer Moonstone Entertainment.

The decision by Weinstein Co. to leave director Chen Kaige's project, China's entry in the foreign language film Oscar race, means Moonstone and China Film Group will resume control over the North American, British, Australian and South African distribution rights.

"We have had an amicable split," said Moonstone's Etchie Stroh, one of the producers of the film, which recently received a Golden Globe nomination. "We decided to disengage."

Weinstein bowed out, according to Stroh, because of a heavy slate of films the studio was already prepping for Oscar runs including "Mrs. Henderson Presents," "The Matador," "The Libertine" and "Transamerica."

"He really contributed to the current version of our film," Stroh said of Weinstein, " ... but his plate is pretty full."

An industry source said the rift grew out of awards campaign plans for "The Promise," also known as "Master of the Crimson Armor." The film revolves around a royal concubine who, empowered by the love of a slave, is given the chance to make an extraordinary decision.

Weinstein saw it as a "hero movie" and an "art film" with limited Oscar potential, while the filmmakers hoped it could compete in various categories -- a costly strategy Weinstein believed was unrealistic, the source said, and one that he was unwilling to back.

With Weinstein out of the picture, Stroh said his company would push the film, which has been cut from 121 minutes to 102 for U.S. audiences, in a number of Oscar categories. It will begin a one-week run at the Laemmle Fairfax theater Friday for Academy Award consideration.

Stroh said the film, which premiered Dec. 12 in Beijing, was already the biggest-grossing film in China after "Titanic."

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