EXCLUSIVE: Lucy Liu has been set to star in Snakehead, a New York-set drama about the international underworld of human smuggling. Pic will be directed by Evan Jackson Leong, who helmed the hoops docu Linsanity, and the film will be financed and produced by 408 Films in partnership with Arowana Films. Leong wrote the script and 408’s Brian Yang, Gregory Chou, and E. Brian Dobbins and Principato-Young’s Allen Fischer are producing with Untitled’s Jason Weinberg and Frameworks’ Maryellen Mulcahy.
Liu will play a Chinese immigrant who arrives penniless to the streets of New York City’s Chinatown, until she is mentored in the business of human smuggling by the powerful bosses—called Snakeheads—who run a thriving business that preys on the hopes of wannabe immigrants who pay a high price for a piece of the American dream. Motivated by a desire to regain her daughter and reclaim her family, she rises to the top of Chinatown’s smuggling business.
“I was drawn to this story and character not only because it ties into my history as a Chinese American but also as a New Yorker,” said Liu. “After reading Evan’s script, the hidden world of human smuggling was exposed to be right here in everyone’s backyard and the reality is at the same time fascinating and grotesque. This combination undoubtedly lays a landscape for a cinematic experience not to be forgotten.”
Leong did extensive research to ground the thriller with the reality of the ordeal faced by illegal immigrants. “Being a 6th generation Chinese-American, I’ve always been curious about my past and how my ancestors emigrated to the United States,” he said. “I find the heart-wrenching choice to uproot and emigrate to a foreign land, truly compelling and brave – a life altering experience for themselves, their families and loved ones left behind. New York, and more specifically its Chinatown, is a fascinating backdrop, that is full of hope, yet fraught with danger, and in itself an important character in this story and society at large.”
To work around Liu’s Elementary series shooting schedule, shooting begins in the spring, and is the first in a slate that 408 Films is raising a fund for. Liu is repped by ICM Partners and Frameworks Entertainment.