Hero finds Miramax marketing less than 'heroic'

Preview by Jack Foley

THE most expensive Chinese movie ever made looks set to be one of the biggest talking points among movie buffs in the opening quarter of 2003 - due to the buzz surrounding the epic and the controversy which has since surfaced.

Hero is a fantasy epic set 2,000 years ago, which tells the story of emporer Quin, the man who struggled to unite China into a single empire in the third century BC and whose tomb is now guarded by a terracotta army of 8,000 statues.

The film is directed by Zhang Yimou and stars some of the top names in Chinese cinema, including Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Maggie Cheung and Zhang Ziyi. It cost $31m to make and uses similar special effects to those employed to such devastating effect in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

The film has been chosen as China's contender for the Best Foreign Film Oscar but is not eligible for any other categories owing to a decision by its distributor, Miramax, not to release it in America until 2003 - a film must have at least a one-week run in Los Angeles before the end of 2002 to qualify for consideration.

The film recently premiered at Beijing's Great Hall, where the Oscar campaign was announced in spectacular style - via a huge sign urging the production on to Academy success.

But fans of the film (of which there are many) have since accused Miramax of scuppering its chances of greater Oscar success by holding it back and feel the movie has been overlooked in favour of Robert Benigni's Pinocchio, which is being released in America on Christmas Day.

Movie website, Monkeypeaches.com, has launched its own campaign aimed at promoting Hero and has publicly slated Miramax over its handling of the film, while also providing plenty of updates and pictures about the production.

The film's director, however, has thus far refused to be drawn into the debate and seems merely pleased to promote the film himself. In an interview with the BBC, he talked of the 'huge debt' that is owed to Crouching Tiger, 'which introduced a new phase in the craze for martial arts movies', while also stating that it opened the door to more commercial success for the genre.

He also said that the success of Crouching Tiger had also helped to make the production of Hero a lot easier, especially in terms of attracting stars and raising funds.

Keep hitting these pages for more on the movie as news becomes available.

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