While most bedtime stories are left up to the imagination, one fortunate boy (the son of screenwriter John Fusco) got the chance to see his fantasies come to life in the form of a major motion picture. What’s more, The Forbidden Kingdom, a fantasy story itself that takes place in ancient China, stars none other than martial arts superstars Jackie Chan and Jet Li.
As Fusco (who also penned Young Guns and Disney’s Hidalgo) explains, the original idea for the film stemmed from his love of martial arts as well as his eagerness to introduce its history and philosophy to his 11-year-old son.
“I started making up a time travel journey into the mythic China of kung fu legend and lore that he could relate to and it grew night after night — introducing all these elements… (Eventually), it grew into a screenplay.”
The movie’s protagonist, Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angarano) is a Boston teenager obsessed with martial arts films who happens to stumble upon a magical discovery that sends him back in time with a quest to free a fabled Monkey King warrior. Along for his journey are kung fu masters Lu Yan (Chan) and Silent Monk (Li) — Jason’s teachers — as well as orphan girl Golden Sparrow (Yifei Liu).
Shot in China, The Forbidden Kingdom marks an important moment in onscreen history with the first ever pairing of Chan and Li — choreographed by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s Woo-Ping Yuen.
Chan, a Hong Kong legend who has also gained a significant North American following with movies like Rumble In The Bronx and the Rush Hour series, discussed his interest in the part during a recent press conference in Los Angeles.
“Whenever we try to make something of Chinese culture overseas, nobody (here) knows it.
“We need a famous studio/director to help bring Chinese culture to the world,” Chan said, naming Fusco, director Rob Minkoff and producer Casey Silver.
Minkoff likewise said he appreciated Chan and Li’s collaboration — citing a parallel between himself and main character Jason.
“(He) gets to go on a journey to China to learn from the martial arts masters and, in a way, I got to do the same thing.”