PRODUCER ZHANG JI ZHONG EMBARKS ON JOURNEY TO THE WEST

Lensing ceremony for 《西游记》 Journey to the West TV series, produced by Zhang Ji Zhong, directed Zhang Jian Ya, with Zhao Jian serving as the action director, was held in Gansu on September 12. Filming will wrap up in around May 2010, with a release sometime in 2011, after months of post-production.

At a budget of 130m yuan, the 50 part teleplay Journey to the West is the most expensive Chinese TV series ever produced. Roughly 2m yuan is being spent on each episode. The team behind X-Men are recruited to help build 70 to 80 set pieces such as Mountain of Flowers and Fruits, do make-ups and create special effects.

Journey to the West, based on the novel by Wu Cheng En, is about Tripitaka, accompanied by his three disciples, Monkey King Sun Wu Kong, Pigsy Zhu Bajie, Sandy Sha Wujing as well as a white horse transformed by the dragon prince, embarking on a perilous pilgrimage to India to acquire scriptures, with various demons laying ambushes on them along the way, during Emperor Li Shimin’s reign in Tang Dynasty.

Nie Yuan will be play Tripitaka, who’s stoic, benevolent, calm and collected in face of dangers, and is no longer as cowardly as the older adaptations. He’s unyielding and has strong faith in his beliefs.

To get into character, Nie Yuan has, under the director’s request, quit smoking and drinking, and been on vegetarian diet on the confirmation of his role and meditates regularly, “Only by allowing my own state of mind to reach a certain level will I be able to enter Tripitaka’s world, and bring out Tripitaka’s perseverance, tranquility and benevolence.”

Wu Yue will portray the kungfu version of Monkey King Sun Wu Kong, which will be less drama-like, and have a more human touch this time, not one that hops about, scratches his ears every now and then – he’s a monkey who’s trying hard to become a human being, and hence won’t be so full of monkey antics.

While Zang Jin Sheng‘s portrayal of Pigsy will still be avaricious and lascivious, he’d do it in a less repulsive and more endearing way, and his Pigsy won’t be as hideous in appearance.

Elvis Tsui will be Sandy, who has a great sense of responsibility, is valiant and steadfast, always putting his master’s safety as top priority.

The series will also feature cameos from various celebrities such as Zhou Xun, Fan Bing Bing, Liu Tao, Chen Hao, Huang Xiao Ming, Sun Hai Ying, Li Li Ping, Wei Zi, Li Ya Peng, as well as Zhang Ji Zhong himself, who’d take on the roles of the immortals, demons, etc.

Director Zhang Jian Ya reveals that it took 3 hours and 40 minutes to apply makeup for Zang Jinsheng’s Pigsy initially, and they subsequently reduced it to 3 hours, and to 2 hours and 10 minutes eventually. As Wu Yue’s Monkey King requires pasting of golden hair, the make-up process is more complicated, requiring 2 and 1/2 hours. Nie Yuan is most fortunate as Tripitaka, “If I were more tan, it could be done in 7 min.”

Zhang Ji Zhong is also in pre-production of a movie adaptation called 《美猴王》 Monkey King (tentative), and taking a leaf out of Disney business model, a theme park is being built.  Chinese Business View, Southern Metropolis Daily, Netease

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