Chinese streaming giant iQIYI reports that it has started production on “Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain,” a film adapted from the classic novel of the same name by Louis Cha (aka Jin Yong), a renowned Hong Kong novelist who was one of the most read Chinese-language authors of the 20th century.
Cha, who also co-founded the Ming Pao newspaper, and directed two films, is best known for his wuxia (chivalric martial arts) novels that with one exception stretch in time from the 11th to the 18th century. He died in October 2018 and received a celebrity memorial with Alibaba founder Jack Ma in attendance.
An estimated 90 films and TV series have been made as adaptations of Cha’s 15 wuxia novels, though iQIYI says that “Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain” is not one of them. Its “Fox Volant” film is pitched as a fantasy adventure that tells a tale of a talented young swordsman avenging his father’s death as he goes undercover among the gang of Eight Villains.
With Lu Yang (“Brotherhood of Blades”) directing, production got under way at the Hengdian studios on Jan. 3, 2021. The company says the completed film will be delivered this year.
The film’s release strategy was not disclosed. Unlike many other territories, film exhibition in mainland China is operating normally, giving iQIYI the option to give the film a conventional theatrical-first outing, or a straight-to-streaming release. The company is currently expanding its activities as a streamer in Southeast Asia and iQIYI-controlled tentpole films could be used as original content that attracts subscribers, or given localized theatrical releases that act as barkers for the streaming app.
Rao Xiaozhi, director of “A Cool Fish,” is set as the film’s co-producer. Ji Peng (“Saving General Yang,” “The Sorcerer and The White Snake”) serves as the artistic director. Feng Simu (“Tientsin Mystic” and award winning short film “Breathe”) is director of photography.
Previous adaptations of Cha novels have included King Hu’s “The Swordsman” (1990), Wong Jing’s 1992 films “Royal Tramp,” and “Royal Tramp II” Wong Kar-wai’s “Ashes of Time,” and the Jeff Lau-directed “Eagle Shooting Heroes.”
Several role-playing video games have also been based on Cha’s novels, including “Heroes of Jin Yong,” which is a composite involving characters from multiple stories. Although, iQIYI has not elaborated on plans for a RPG, the company is diversifying from its base in streaming into games, VR and other forms of IP.
Other film projects based on Cha properties are in different stages of preparation. These including: Pang Ho Cheung’s ambitious three movie adaptation of “Deer And Cauldron”; “The Book and the Sword,” being written by veteran TV scriptwriter Chan Sap-sam (“My Date With A Vampire”) for mainland production house Er Dong Pictures; and Gordon Chan’s plans to direct a 3D version of “The Legend of the Condor Heroes.”