"Geisha" Gets Ready for Action
Friday August 20 7:00 PM ET
Source: Yahoo Movies
It's taken seven years but this Geisha is finally ready to roll.
Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden's 1997 bestseller about a nave Japanese girl turned big-city working girl, should have been a cineplex slam-dunk by now, but rotating directors and some Hollywood-sized grudges have kept the novel from making it to the big screen.
That was then.
Columbia Pictures has just announced that production will begin next month in Los Angeles and Japan with Chicago's Rob Marshall at the helm and Steven Spielberg producing. Principal cast members include Oscar nominee Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's Zhang Ziyi.
Ziyi, who played a foxy villain in Rush Hour 2, will star as Sayuri, the young orphan groomed to be a Kyoto geisha.
The actress, who made her English-language debut with Rush Hour 2, told the Associated Press she had been practicing her English for several years. "This is the first time that I will play the lead in an English-language movie. It will be a big challenge, but the studios, producers and director have shown great confidence in me. I will continue to do my utmost to make this the best role I've ever played," she said.
Watanabe, who starred in last year's The Last Samurai, will play the Chairman, a high-powered exec with whom Sayuri falls in love. The actor's also scheduled to star in Christopher Nolan's upcoming prequel Batman Begins.
Meanwhile, the movie will reunite Ziyi with her Crouching Tiger sparring partner Michelle Yeoh, who will play Mameha, Sayuri's mentor. Other cast members include Raise the Red Lantern's Gong Li as Sayuri's arch rival, Koji Yakusho (Shall We Dance) as one of Sayuri's prospective patrons and Youki Kudoh (Snow Falling on Cedars) as Sayuri's childhood friend Pumpkin.
Marshall's spot in the director's chair comes after much negotiating between Columbia Pictures and DreamWorks, who are producing the movie version, and Miramax, which owned the rights to Marshall's first born--or at least his next movie. It has taken more than a year for the studios to reach a deal.
"We could not be more excited about the extraordinary cast that we have in place for Memoirs of a Geisha," said Marshall in a statement. "We are adapting a beloved piece of literature that has become a worldwide sensation, which made it important to me to assemble a cast with a prestigious international profile. I cannot wait to begin production this fall."
Spielberg, who originally announced his intention to direct the flick (followed by interest from Spike Jonze and Kimberly Pierce), will now serve as a producer.
"From the time I first read Arthur Golden's novel, I wanted to see this as a film," Spielberg said. "It's a uniquely compelling story rich with characters who take you into a world you have never experienced before, and there is no one better than Rob Marshall to bring all the poetry and artistry of Arthur Golden's novel to movie theaters all over the world."
No word yet on a release date.