Johnny Depp’s ‘Transcendence’ gets China boost

BEIJING -- “Transcendence,” the upcoming Johnny Depp sci-fi film directed by Christopher Nolan’s longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister, will get a boost in China from DMG Entertainment, the Beijing-based company that helped add Chinese elements to “Iron Man 3” and “Looper.” But don’t look for any extra China-specific footage in the 2014 film.

DMG said Thursday it had partnered with Alcon Entertainment to help finance, produce and distribute the movie in China, which is now filming stateside and will be released in the U.S. by Warner Bros. in April. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The two companies will also collaborate on a planned remake of the 1991 film “Point Break,” which starred Keanu Reeves as an FBI agent who infiltrates a group of surfers to crack a string of bank robberies. Alcon and DMG said the new version would be “set in the world of international extreme sports.”



“Transcendence,” like many of Nolan’s movies, has been shrouded in secrecy; the cast includes Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall and Kate Mara. (Nolan is serving as an executive producer on the film.)

At a news conference Thursday in Beijing, DMG representatives sought to whet the appetite of Chinese reporters without giving away much about the film.

A version of a script leaked about six months ago indicated that the plot revolves around a group of scientists trying to build the world’s first self-aware supercomputer; Depp uploads the contents of his brain to a supercomputer but then is slain.

DMG founder Dan Mintz said the core of the plot is the notion of immortality, but there’s also a strong love story as well.

“Without giving away too much, ‘Transcendence’ is about that moment when human consciousness and the insanely fast rise of computing power collide,” Mintz said. “It pulls from the idea of singularity to tell a truly meaningful story that is more ‘science reality’ than science fiction. This is something that is likely to happen in our lifetimes and that makes it a story everyone can get into.”

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DMG spokesman Mike Chambers said there were no plans to film extra footage in China that would be included only for the release there, as was done with “Looper” and “Iron Man 3.” So far in 2013, “Iron Man 3" is the second-highest grossing film in China.

A 30-second “behind the scenes” video from the “Transcendence” set revealed nothing specific about the movie, though Hall gave a shout out to Chinese fans and said she was looking forward to visiting the country.

Wu Bing of DMG did relate that she had visited the set and said Depp had befriended two homeless men he encountered on location, sharing food from craft services and even getting them parts as extras.

DMG invited Ben Goertzel, a Hong Kong-based artificial intelligence researcher, to address the assembled throng of Chinese journalists, though Goertzel apparently has no direct connection to the production and has not read the script.

“The scientific work depicted in ‘Transcendence’ touches two of humanity’s long sought-after aspirations: the desire to breathe life into inanimate objects, and the desire to achieve human immortality,” Goertzel said.


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