The film censors at China’s media watchdog have kept their scissors sharp over the years.
Footage of an errant Chinese security guard dying was censored from the James Bond film Skyfall, images of Kate Winslet were cropped for her nude scene in the 3D version of Titanic, while much of the more acrobatic erotic action between Tony Leung and Tang Wei in Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution found its way to the proverbial cutting room floor.
However it is rare that an entire character has been removed. This was what was feared might happen in the case of Jaycee Chan’s role in Chen Kaige’s Monk Comes Down the Mountain.
Last August Chan and his friend Kai Ko were found in possession of 100 grams of marijuana in a drugs bust in Beijing that was part of the government’s aggressive anti-narcotics campaign.
At around the same time the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) issued a statement banning stars with criminal records from appearing in film and TV shows. The powerful regulator even warned of a life ban on “tainted stars” involved in prostitution, gambling or drug abuse.
Chan, son of Hong Kong star Jackie Chan, was cast as Qizi in the Chen Kaige blockbuster. His character is the son of the wuxia master Peng Qianwu and his role is a significant one. Ironically his character also goes on a drug-induced adventure with one of the film’s key protagonists, played by Wang Baoqiang of Lost in Thailand.
Chan did not feature in the advance publicity for the film. And at a press conference in April to launch the trailer, Chen Kaige responded cryptically when he was asked if Chan junior was doomed for the chop (“You can guess” was all he would say).
Even at a briefing last month, Chen remained tight-lipped, giving nothing away about whether Jaycee would appear in his movie.
As it turned out, he did.
His removal from the blacklist reportedly came after both Chen and Jackie Chan personally appealed to the authorities to allow his scenes to be left in.
According to Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, quoting sources close to Chen, the director asked the film bureau to leave Chan in. The filmmaker pleaded that the young actor appeared in so many scenes it meant that editing or reshooting would be very difficult.
He argued that in a time of great competition with Hollywood, it was important “to make an effort for Chinese cinema”.
Jackie Chan also went out of his way to show how his son was a changed man. In February, he welcomed him home from his six months in jail by taking a razor to his son’s scalp – a symbolic gesture of atonement. This head-shaving appears to have sat well with the authorities.
While it’s not clear that Chan’s inclusion was a factor, Monk Comes Down The Mountain succeeded in ousting the Hollywood favourite Jurassic World from the top of the box office charts in China. It took $38 million in its first four days, according to movie research group Entgroup (thanks to 176,191 screenings and 5.83 million attendances).
And it appears the regulator’s more lenient approach isn’t confined solely to Jaycee Chan. Kai Ko, who was arrested with him, won’t be edited out of the romance Tiny Times 4, which opened on July 9.
Since the moral crusade began, there has been a cluster of big names in the entertainment industry nabbed in drug and vice busts, including the Golden Bear-winning director Wang Quan’an, who was arrested last September for paying for sex.
Perhaps the crackdown is easing. There are reports that other actors caught in drugs or prostitution raids, such as Roy Cheung and Huang Haibo, may also be spared the ban, although Hong Kong actor Edison Chan remains persona non grata.
For some producers the relaxed rules come too late. Monster Hunt, due on July 16, and which featured Ko in the lead role, was completely reshot with Jing Boran taking Ko’s part.
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