EXCLUSIVE: Who best to start a new IP for Neal Moritz’s Original Film (Fast and Furious) than the Ip Man himself? Martial artist Donnie Yen is set to star in a new feature from Moritz entitled Sleeping Dogs, which is based on the top-selling video game by Square Enix.
Yen, who recently co-starred in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and xXx: Return of Xander Cage, follows an undercover police officer (Yen) on a mission to take down one of the most powerful and dangerous criminal organizations in the world: the notorious Triads. The movie based on an action video game is set in Hong Kong and focuses on martial arts fighting, racing, boat chases … and shooting while doing all of that.
Yen, a Chinese martial artist, has long been a fight choreographer and is probably best known to audiences as the star — and Wing Chun grandmaster — of the Ip Man franchise. Original Film is producing with DJ2 Entertainment, specifically producers will be Moritz, Dmitri Johnson and Dan Jevons with Toby Ascher and Stephan Bugaj executive producing. DJ2 is currently co-producing the upcoming live-action/CG feature Sonic the Hedgehog for Sony.
Yen is beloved in China. About a month before xXx: Return of Xander Cage bowed in the country, Paramount put Yen front and center in marketing for the film to appeal to local audiences and to drive ticket sales on local Chinese websites. We’re told that Gewara, Wepiao, Maoyan and Sina Weibo Ticketing sites in China carried an image prominently displaying Yen and upstaging Diesel. Both the Paramount image and the local image to drive Chinese audiences into theaters are both shown with this story.
The concentration on Yen certainly paid off. The film won the 2nd biggest Imax February debut ever in China, behind only the 2014 film and local sensation The Monkey King 2.
The third of Ip Man did tremendous business — $124M in China — last year.
CAA, which represents Yen, is packaging the film and in discussions with multiple financiers. Bugaij and DJ2 Entertainment is repped by APA.