"Shanghai" to be shot in Thailand after China ban

TOKYO, March 19 (Reuters Life!) - Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is moving production of the period film “Shanghai” from China to Thailand and the UK due to Chinese concerns over the script, entertainment Web site Variety reported on Wednesday.

Harvey Weinstein, Co-Chairman of the Weinstein Company, kicks off the Film Finance Circle conference with an informal discussion at the inaugural Middle East International Film Festival in Abu Dhabi, October 15, 2007. REUTERS/Steve Crisp

The 1940s drama about an American man in Japanese-occupied Shanghai failed to secure a shooting permit in China, the Web site said, in the latest clash between Chinese censors and international artists.

“Decision has everything to do with (the Chinese authorities) not liking the script, especially elements about collaboration,” Variety quoted Weinstein, the co-president of The Weinstein Company which produces the film, as saying.

Directed by Mikael Hafstrom and starring John Cusack, Gong Li and Ken Watanabe, “Shanghai” tells the story of an American who stumbles across government secrets while investigating the death of a friend.

Weinstein had previously considered filming in Hong Kong after being forced out of China.

“Hong Kong doesn’t have the colonial era setting we need, it’s difficult to find a building here less than 50 stories high, so we will be going to Thailand and, believe it or not, England,” he said, according to Variety.

The Weinstein Company had already spent nearly $3 million building sets in China, Variety said.

“Of course we’ll be in China in the future with films like (remakes of) ‘Avenging Eagle’ and ‘Iron Monkey’,” said Weinstein, who was attending a film festival in Hong Kong. “We respect (China’s) rules. And if things are too sensitive or too difficult we’ll simply locate production elsewhere.”

Officials at China’s film watchdog, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, said they could not comment when contacted by telephone by Reuters, and asked to be sent a fax.

Last year, Weinstein launched a $285 million film fund to invest in Asian-themed projects, including Wong Kar-wai’s “My Blueberry Nights”.

China has locked horns with a range of performers over the past few weeks, drawing criticism ahead of the Beijing Olympics. Earlier this month, the Culture Ministry said it would tighten controls over foreign artists after Icelandic singer Bjork shouted “Tibet! Tibet!” at a concert in Shanghai.

In February, Hollywood director Steven Spielberg pulled out as an artistic adviser to this year’s Summer Olympics due to the Chinese government’s policy over Sudan and conflict in Darfur.

Reporting by Sophie Hardach; additional reporting by Ian Ransom in Beijing; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani