EXCLUSIVE: Zhang Yimou's "The Parsifal Mosaic" already has one of the more interesting Hollywood pedigrees around, with the Chinese auteur the first director from the Middle Kingdom to helm a major studio film.
Now the Robert Ludlum adaptation continues to deepen the intrigue, with the hiring of Hollywood screenwriter Arash Amel to write a new draft of the script, according to a person familiar with the project who was not authorized to talk about it publicly.
"The Road to Perdition" scribe David Self had previously penned a draft of the long-gestating project, but when Yimou was hired last winter it was under the assumption he'd bring on his own writer. Ron Howard is among those producing the action thriller at Universal, along with Ludlum steward Captivate Entertainment. A Universal spokesman confirmed the hire.
Amel has been riding a bit of a hot streak. Though one version of his Grace Kelly biopic "Grace of Monaco" polarized audiences at Cannes, he has a number of other high-profile projects in development.
They include "Marie Colvin's Private War," about the award-wining battle correspondent killed covering the Siege of Homs in Syria several years ago, that will star and be produced by Charlize Theron and also comes from the producers behind "The Town."
Amel and "Grace" financiers are also teaming for "Seducing Ingrid Bergman," a project that in a way united the themes of the "Grace" and "Colvin" films by telling of the relationship between the war photographer Robert Capa and the titular movie star. A Vin Diesel action project, "Soldiers of the Sun," is also in the wings at Universal.
Written in 1982, "Parsifal" is part of Ludlum's Cold War-era canon that sold tens of millions of copies and also spawned numerous Jason Bourne movies, among others. Though originally set amid U.S. black ops and KGB intrigue, under Yimou the new version is expected to relocate the action at least in part to contemporary Asia.
At the Cannes Film Festival, Yimou expressed his enthusiasm to The Times for the project. "I know I'm doing something that's never been done before. But I'm happy to be the guinea pig and set the new trend," said the director, whose period Chinese tale "Coming Home" will arrive this year. "There's a Chinese expression that you use their water but sail your own boat. I will use their water to sail my own boat."