In a role that introduced American audiences to Bruce Lee, Taiwanese heartthrob Jay Chou will play martial arts expert Kato in the upcoming big screen adaption of The Green Hornet.
The film, which is based on the 1930s radio series created by George W Trendle and Fran Striker, features Seth Rogen ( who starred in Knocked Up and Pineapple Express) as the masked vigilante who fights crime, and Chou as his gadget-crazy sidekick. It also stars Cameron Diaz as the love interest and Christoph Waltz as the principal villain.
“It’s an overwhelming experience to take on a role made famous by Bruce Lee. I won’t try to be Bruce Lee’s Kato – I will try to bring my own interpretation to the part,” says the Taiwanese star, who is a big Bruce Lee fan (he taught himself to use the nunchacku and even appeared in a music video with it).
Chou got the role after Hong Kong comedian Stephen Chow walked away from the part citing (rather unoriginally) “artistic differences” with the production team, says Hollywood Reporter. As Kato, Chou gets his first English-speaking part, though judging from the recently released trailer, you get the sense that he won’t be reading any Shakespeare for a while.
“Speaking English gives me a headache,” Chou admitted in an interview with the South China Morning Post. “As I said, I’m not eager to start a new acting career in Hollywood. All I want is to have more people know about me, my music, and my other work.”
Though little known internationally, Chou’s music has drawn a huge following in Asia, especially in China, where he has sold millions of albums.
Mainland fans seem to care little about the fact that he’s native Taiwanese, and a number of his songs have appeared on a list of 100 approved titles for music lessons in Chinese middle schools (see WiC58).
Critics say the casting of Chou as Kato is underpinned more by commercial realities than any acting talent. The star, who moved into acting in 2005 with a role in the comedy-action film Initial D, has proved that popularity in music can translate into box office success.
Take Curse of the Golden Flower. The 2006 historical drama directed by Zhang Yimou, starring Chou along with Gong Li and Chow Yun-Fat, went on to become one of the biggest box office hits on the mainland. Two years later, Chou again took the lead in Kung Fu Dunk, another blockbuster in Asia.
But lately, Chou’s midas touch seems to have deserted him. His last two films, The Treasure Hunter and True Legend both flopped. And his maiden attempt at directing a television series also failed to impress. Pandamen (a clue in the title as to why it didn’t do well, perhaps?) premiered on Jiangsu Satellite TV in February. But ratings were abysmal and show was cancelled before it finished airing, the Chongqing Morning Post reports. Audiences were far from excited by the underlying premise (a superhero who wears a panda mask). The whole thing looked ridiculous, says Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po.
Early feedback on The Green Hornet may not please Chou either. On Sina.com, a popular internet portal, netizens have been poking fun at his poor English. Some say he is not fit to play Bruce Lee.
“I think he [Chou] should honestly stick to singing,” wrote one online contributor.
© ChinTell Ltd. All rights reserved.
Exclusively sponsored by HSBC.
The Week in China website and the weekly magazine publications are owned and maintained by ChinTell Limited, Hong Kong. Neither HSBC nor any member of the HSBC group of companies ("HSBC") endorses the contents and/or is involved in selecting, creating or editing the contents of the Week in China website or the Week in China magazine. The views expressed in these publications are solely the views of ChinTell Limited and do not necessarily reflect the views or investment ideas of HSBC. No responsibility will therefore be assumed by HSBC for the contents of these publications or for the errors or omissions therein.