Philip Lee to Revive ‘The 19th Step,’ Launch Paul Haggis Trilogy (EXCLUSIVE)

Naman Ramachandran
Variety

Philip Lee, a producer who straddles China and Hollywood, is on board to produce an Indian martial arts film and a trilogy of movies by “Million Dollar Baby,” and “Crash” writer Paul Haggis.

Lee, who was associate producer on “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and executive producer on “Cloud Atlas,” “The Revenant,” and “Assassin’s Creed,” recently teamed with Hollywood financier Markus Barmettler to launch production venture Facing East. He spoke to Variety after delivering a master class in Goa at the recent Film Bazaar.

“The 19th Step” is a project that was previously announced in 2008 with Indian filmmaker Bharat Bala to direct. The film will be based on the ancient Indian martial art Kalaripayattu that later evolved into Oriental martial arts like Kung Fu.

The film was due to star India’s Kamal Haasan, Asin, and Japan’s Tadanobu Asano but eventually fell through due to what Lee describes as “stupid reasons.” Lee reconnected with Bala at Film Bazaar and the script is now being reworked, before a fresh set of actors is approached. Lee will produce via his Facing East outfit along with Bala’s Bharat Bala Productions.

“The timing is good,” Lee said. “It is the kind of project that has international appeal.”

Haggis will write and direct a trilogy for Facing East based on U.S. author Paolo Bacigalupi’s young adult novels, beginning with “Ship Breaker,” Lee revealed. Haggis is currently working on the scripts.

Lee is also working with Ronny Yu on an as-yet untitled project, due to shoot in late 2017. “It is a project that will be shot in Honolulu. It is set at the turn of the century and is about a Chinese policeman, an inspector who was very famous,” Lee said. No cast has been attached yet. The project was earlier titled “Chinatown.” “I hated the title,” says Lee. “Right now we are calling it the ‘Ronny Yu Untitled Picture,'” he added.

Terrence Malick’s “Radegund,” on which Lee is a producer, is currently in post and will be ready “sometime in 2018,” Lee said.

Lee is also partnering with Rob Minkoff (“The Lion King”) and former Disney executive Steve Fickinger to produce a Broadway version of “Farewell My Concubine,” based on Pik Wah Lee’s novel that Chen Kaige made a Palme d’Or-winning film of in 1993. Pre-production will begin imminently with a director and cast set to be attached soon.

Lee said that financing for the long gestating project “Razor,” based on the bestselling comic-book series “Razor” and “Stryke” created by Everette Hartsoe, is “pretty much in place,” quoting fellow producer Jeff Most. Lee is not involved in the financing of “Razor.” Rob Cohen is attached to direct.

Variety had previously revealed that Samuel L. Jackson was in final discussions to star in Peter Segal’s $130 million science fiction film “Inversion.” Lee confirmed the casting, saying, “Samuel Jackson is contracting with us right now.” Filming will commence Feb. 27 in Berlin. The cast also includes Travis Fimmel and China’s Liu Yifei.

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