With the US and China at loggerheads over the arrest of four Chinese nationals on suspicion of espionage and Steven Spielberg’s decision to withdraw as an artistic advisor to this summer’s Olympic Games, it seems only fitting that the ongoing battle between Hollywood and China’s film authorities should remain as eventful as ever.Chinese authorities have threatened to derail Mikael Hafstrom’s upcoming Chinese shoot of the $50m (£24m) period epic Shanghai, set to star John Cusack and Gong Li.While specifics were unclear, it is understood that Hollywood’s latest China crisis has erupted over scenes in the script that depict opium use among Chinese.
Eager to portray their people in the best possible light in the year of the Olympics, officials at China’s Film Bureau have demanded changes to the story.
Hafstrom has been in pre-production in China since September ahead of the scheduled March 10 start date and might need to begin scouting for alternative locations if a revised script doesn’t meet with approval.
Producers Harvey Weinstein and Mike Medavoy are scrambling to make alternative arrangements. Last night Medavoy, whose credits include Zodiac and the upcoming Martin Scorsese and the Leonard DiCaprio project Shutter Island, said he was hopeful Shanghai could stay in China.
“I hope everybody rethinks it,” Medavoy said, adding that the storyline was set in the past and did not relate to modern-day China.