EXCLUSIVE: Chinese megastar Donnie Yen is set to star in and produce crime thriller Golden Empire, in which he will play a notorious drug kingpin who hits the top of the most wanted list for both the U.S. and Mexican governments.
Yen also will produce the movie alongside Peter Luo, CEO at Starlight Media, which is lead financing alongside SA Inc. The English-language pic will shoot primarily in the U.S.
The film will explore the complexities of the character, showcasing the inner turmoil of one of the world’s most successful multinational drug lords. Yen also played a real-life gangster in 2017 pic Chasing the Dragon, in which he starred alongside Andy Lau. Producer Luo said that performance led him to believe the actor was the only candidate to lead Golden Empire.
“The talents of Donnie are undeniable and will be utilized in every imaginable way to bring this epic story to life,” Luo said. “Spanning the continents of Asia, North America and South America, Golden Empire is really the first major narco film with an Asian lead that plays to global audiences. Showcasing diversity in cinema, while retaining authenticity, has always been a primary focus of ours, and this unique and fascinating story is representative of our mandate.”
Luo’s credits through Starlight include backing Midway, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Crazy Rich Asians. The producer also is teaming with Yen and Donna Gigliotti for Wuhan! Wuhan!, a documentary feature charting the Chinese city that was the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak last year.
Yen has straddled Chinese and American features in recent years, reprising his role as the titular Ip Man in the franchise’s fourth entry, Ip Man 4: The Finale, last year, while he has Disney pic Mulan coming up in August (pandemic allowing). His credits also include Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and xXx: Return of Xander Cage.