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Charmaine Sheh originally turned down as ‘not popular enough’ to be the female lead of Mainland series “Legend of the Yuan Empire Founder”

hong kong china charmaine sheh tsui siu ming legend of yuan empire founder hu jun

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#1 llwy12

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 11:40 PM

Charmaine Sheh originally turned down as ‘not popular enough’ to be the female lead of Mainland series “Legend of the Yuan Empire Founder”

Source: Mingpao

Translated by: llwy12@asianfanatics.net


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An expert in bringing historical character dramas to life, HK ‘golden’director Tsui Siu Ming (Siu Ming Gor) brought his HK TV series “The Legendary Fok” 《霍元甲》to the Mainland many years ago, where it became a runaway hit. Now, several decades later, Siu Ming Gor is back in the director’s chair again with the $100 million yuan Mainland funded grand production “Legend of the Yuan Empire Founder” 《建元風雲》, a historical epic that recounts the founding of the Yuan dynasty by Mongolian leader Kublai Khan. The series is scheduled to air in CCTV’s [TN: the premiere television broadcaster in Mainland China] ‘golden’ timeslot in the summer. Instead of casting a Mainland actress in the lead role, Siu Ming Gor decided to cast HK television actress Charmaine Sheh (佘詩曼) in the role due to his strong ties to HK.

Throughout the past 7 months of filming, the 400+ cast and crew of “Legend of the Yuan Empire Founder”, led by director Tsui Siu Ming, traveled back and forth from Inner Mongolia to Hengdian, China. With a strong cast consisting of Mainland artists Hu Jun (胡軍), Tang Guo Qiang (唐國強), Wu Yue (吳樾) as well as HK artists Ray Lui (呂良偉), Charmaine Sheh (佘詩曼), Steven Ma (馬浚偉), etc., the series has already garnered lots of attention in China, with industry insiders and netizens alike billing this as the most anticipated series of the year.

Actually, director Tsui Siu Ming had the idea to film the story of Yuan Empire founder Kublai Khan more than 20 years ago and originally, there were plans to collaborate with action star Jackie Chan (成龍) to bring the story to the big screen – unfortunately, at that time, Jackie Chan had other projects in the works, so the plan was put on hold indefinitely. Unexpectedly, Mainland China’s two largest production companies (Beijing Yuang Guang Sheng Tong Culture Arts Ltd and Bona Film Group Limited) took an interest in the project – in addition to investing more than 100 million yuan in the project, they also invited Tsui Siu Ming to take on the role of director. Initially, Siu Ming Gor had declined the invitation to participate in the project: “In the beginning, the idea I had in mind for filming Kublai Khan’s story was different than theirs [the investors' idea]. Therefore, to avoid the outcome of the story straying from what I intended, I preferred to decline the offer.” Later on, after listening to Siu Ming Gor’s story concept, the investors eventually agreed with his ‘view’ on Kublai Khan and turned over full filming authority for the series to him.


Reflecting on Kublai Khan’s love and family life

What is Siu Ming Gor’s ‘view’ on Kublai Khan? “People have the misguided notion of Kublai Khan only being an aggressive warrior when in fact he was a man with the air of a monarch who had great aspirations and vision. He ruled the lands he conquered utilizing the methods of that land and showed tolerance toward all different races and ethnicities. The reason I like filming historical character epics is because in the creative process, I can bring forth for audiences parts of the character’s story that history does not focus much on – for instance, with Kublai Khan, what was his love life like? How about his family relationships? Both of these areas are explored in the series.”


‘Fight to the finish’ for the male/female lead roles

With this series being a rare multi-million dollar Mainland grand production as well as the coveted opportunity of airing in CCTV’s ‘golden’ timeslot (which traditionally has a following of over 1 billion viewers in the Mainland), a ‘fight’ for the golden opportunity to take on a lead role in the series was inevitable. In the end, both the investors as well as Siu Ming Gor agreed that Mainland actor Hu Jun should be cast as the male lead in the series, despite his reported extraordinarily high salary of 400,000 yuan per episode. The ‘battle’ then began for the lead female role in the series – the Empress. It is rumored that popular Mainland and Taiwan actresses such as Yang Mi (楊冪), Ady An (安以軒), Song Jia (小宋佳), etc. were among the top choices that the investors wanted to cast in the lead role, however director Tsui Siu Ming insisted on utilizing a HK actress for the role. At the time, he had suggested casting Charmaine Sheh in the role, but both the investors as well as CCTV refused at first because they felt Charmaine was ‘not popular enough’ in the Mainland – to avoid further difference in opinion, they even suggested casting a newcomer of Mongolian descent in the role – however Siu Ming Gor persisted in wanting to cast Charmaine in the role, as he felt that only Charmaine pairing with Hu Jun would be able to produce the ‘chemistry’ that he wanted. In the end, he was able to persuade the investors and Charmaine was officially cast as the female lead in the series. Once the casting announcement was made, the investors discovered that many Mainland audiences were already discussing and praising Charmaine’s costume and later her performance in the series, which made them realize that Charmaine had indeed already established a strong foundation in the Mainland market.


Most important is the suitability of the role

When Siu Ming Gor was asked about the casting ‘battle’, he smiled and stated: “My insistence on casting Charmaine was primarily due to my strong affinity for HK artists – Mainland audiences are traditionally opposed to HK artists taking on major roles in Mainland historical epics because they feel that HK artists lack ‘essence’ when it came to portraying historical figures. To me, the most important thing is the suitability of the role to the artist. Charmaine’s performance [in this series] is proof enough that HK artists absolutely have the qualifications to take on major roles in Mainland grand productions.”

Decades after bringing HK series “The Legendary Fok” into the Mainland market, Siu Ming Gor once again bears the huge responsibility of ‘introducing’ HK artists into the Mainland and possibly creating another ‘phenomenon’ in the region.

#2 MrCritique

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 12:03 AM

I agree with Sui Ming got only to the extense that both yang mi and ady an are way too young for the role and to have appropriate chemistry with hu Jin. As for the casting of charmaine shen, that's debatable.

The notion that the director is from hk and therefore one of the lead must be from hk just does not sit well in general with the Chinese, or anybody else. So now the Chinese will be treated with the shallow tvb acting style. Lol!!

#3 llwy12

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 12:08 AM

Wow...now I totally understand why Steven Ma would be so ticked off at TVB for not allowing him to film this series initially -- to the point that he felt he needed to terminate his management contract with TVB! Given how high profile this series is and how many viewers it has the potential of reaching, mere participation in this series could potentially give him the perfect 'launching pad' for breaking into the Mainland market and 'speed up' his career there.

I'll bet that TVB (or, more specifically, one particular person at TVB) was 'bitter' that one of their favorite biological sons was not chosen to participate in the series and so wanted to sabotage Steven's chances of participating as well. Hmmm....

#4 Disneyfan

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 01:32 AM

I think Siu Ming is right and that Charmaine is more fitting for the role than Yang Mi and Ady An. Especially when the female is suppose to match Hu Jun, Charmaine seems to match him better (age and acting wise).

#5 tamaya

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 06:22 PM

I hope the series is first and foremost entertaining and riveting to watch and not be too pedantic over historic details inadvertently hurting the pace and flow of the story.

#6 nnnn

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 12:49 AM

Good director should be like him, very good pairing choice, Charmaine can portray a good Mogolian girl, for some reasons, I don't think many actresses from mainland are attractive even they can be considered pretty and most of them are not even pretty nor charm in my eyes. Charmaine is not pretty but she has her own charm.

#7 selliesellie

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 04:54 AM

Wow...now I totally understand why Steven Ma would be so ticked off at TVB for not allowing him to film this series initially -- to the point that he felt he needed to terminate his management contract with TVB! Given how high profile this series is and how many viewers it has the potential of reaching, mere participation in this series could potentially give him the perfect 'launching pad' for breaking into the Mainland market and 'speed up' his career there.

I'll bet that TVB (or, more specifically, one particular person at TVB) was 'bitter' that one of their favorite biological sons was not chosen to participate in the series and so wanted to sabotage Steven's chances of participating as well. Hmmm....


I hope Steven can get popular in mainland from this series and prove that TVB has mistreated him.

@llwy12
Who was the biological TVB person that don't get picked for this series over Steven that makes the management sabotage Steven? Can you share?

#8 llwy12

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 06:23 AM

@llwy12
Who was the biological TVB person that don't get picked for this series over Steven that makes the management sabotage Steven? Can you share?


No one in particular was mentioned -- it was pretty much a general statement on my part. Since Virginia Lok was pretty much the one who initially 'declined' the offer on Steven's behalf (for a reason that is not 'valid', since other artists are allowed to film in the Mainland) and she is known for favoring the artists in her camp, it makes sense (to me at least) that she might have made the decision to not let Steven film it because she didn't like the fact that Steven was chosen to film the series over her own 'favored' artists (plus keep in mind that the offer to film this series didn't come through TVB....if I recall correctly, director Tsui approached Steven / his manager directly, so VL probably didn't have the chance to recommend her own favored artists to film instead).

#9 tamaya

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 04:48 AM

Rough cut trailer 6:45 min


Better video quality in the below links.
video credit: 冠者之煜 weibo
video at tudou

Preliminary look at loyef. Charmaine's dubbed voice is way too girlish not authoritative enough.
What a pity Steven missed the chance to go to Mongolia for shooting. The scenes there look totally epic.

Steven came around 3:14 Charmaine at 2:52 and later towards the end.
The music is so blood stirring and exciting, and yes, epic. What an exciting trailer!

Edited by tamaya, 29 March 2012 - 04:55 AM.