[ENTERTAINMENT]'The Last Empress' Is Going Hollywood

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[ENTERTAINMENT]'The Last Empress' Is Going Hollywood

The U.S.-based Landmark Entertainment Group and a Korean counterpart, Samhwa Production, announced recently that they will jointly produce a film to be titled "The Last Empress," with a budget of $50 million.

Landmark Entertainment Group is best-known for its theme park rides, such as "Jurassic Park: The Ride" and "Star Trek: The Experience." This project will be the first Korean-American joint movie production. The film tells the story of the last queen of the Choson dynasty, Min Ja-young (1851-1895).

Better known as "Myeongseong Hwanghu," the queen lived during the prelude to the Japanese annexation of Korea. Queen Min reputedly had considerable influence on the politics of her era, and was a leading figure in efforts to save her country from colonization.

Because of her actions, Japanese soldiers assassinated her and, so the story goes, burned her body afterward. Her turbulent life has been a favorite topic for Korean TV dramas, musicals and films. A musical version of "The Last Empress" opened in Seoul in 1991 and was also produced in Los Angeles and New York.

A TV drama about the queen, "Myeongseong Hwanghu," is currently being aired on the Korea Broadcasting System.

The movie's director, Ha Myeong-jung, tried several times to make a film about the queen, only to fail because of financing difficulties. But then Landmark Entertainment Group started to look for its first project for Landmark Asia, a newly formed subsidiary. Gary Goddard, head of the Landmark Entertainment Group, suggested to Mr. Ha that they work together.

Samhwa Production, the company behind the TV drama "Myeongseong Hwanghu" will provide one-fifth of the budget for the film.

Shin Hyun-taik, president of Samhwa Production, said "The film will focus on the tragic life of the last empress, but we also want to keep the story balanced, dealing with the reasons why Japan felt it needed to colonize Korea."

"The Last Empress" will start filming in July 2002, and executives are aiming for a worldwide release in 2003.

Except for the director, Mr. Ha, the cast and crew of the film, including Mr. Ha's American co-director, have not been decided yet. Most of the cast and crew will be from Hollywood, except for the female lead. "Though many actresses have shown great interest, we need someone who is fluent in English because the film is targeted at the worldwide market," Mr. Shin said.

Samhwa Production and Landmark Entertainment Group will formally announce their alliance and sign the contract on Monday at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Seoul. The film is the first project in a three-year investment program by Landmark Asia in Korean films, animations and musicals with a budget of 115 million dollars.

by Chun Su-jin

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