Although his star may have faded significantly in the West over the past decade, by all accounts movie star Nicholas Cage is huge in China. A Yunnan studio action film shot specifically to capitalize on that popularity was abruptly shelved in October amidst much rumor and confusion. The motion picture has now been resurrected, and both Chinese and international audiences will soon have the opportunity to see Cage frolicking about during the Song Dynasty.
The film, entitled Outcast (绝命逃亡), co-stars Cage, Hayden Christensen and Chinese actress Liu Yifei (刘亦菲). Christensen is perhaps best known for his much-maligned portrayal of Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels, while Liu has appeared in multiple mainland films and television shows.
In Outcast, the male leads play twelfth-century European crusaders who somehow end up in China. There, according to trade magazine Variety, they "find redemption" while aiding a prince marked for assassination. The 50 year-old Cage's character has been described somewhat confusingly in press releases as a "Crusader-turned-bandit".
The film marks the directorial debut of Nick Powell, a former stunt and action-sequence choreographer. Shot on-location in Beijing and undisclosed parts of Yunnan, the movie is expected to do well enough at the Chinese box office that a sequel has already been approved. Its predicted success hinges on several factors, including Outcast's bilingual script. Perhaps the most important marketing ploy, however, is Cage's mere presence on screen. He was named Best Global Actor at a China's popular Huading Awards (华鼎奖) in 2013.
Originally scheduled for release earlier this year, Cage's newest vehicle will now hit Chinese cinemas in January 2015 and international markets the following month. No word has yet been given as to why the movie's Chinese release was completely scuttled in October. Two hours before its national opening, with its main actors gathered together in Beijing for a premier and Outcast set to play at tens of thousands of theaters across the country, all screenings were unexpectedly cancelled.
Hollywood speculation as to why this happened has focused on the company funding the movie — Yunnan Film Group — perhaps being unable to get the epic's ferocious 3D battle sequences past Chinese censors. Others maintain the film's 26 percent share of available theaters was deemed too small a grand opening by Outcast's financial backers.
Whatever the holdup, the film, which is at least Cage's thirtieth of the past decade, has been cleared for commercial release. Moviegoers now have only a short time to wait and see if the incredibly entertaining thought of Nic Cage speaking Chinese comes true.
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