The China Film Group Corporation and its movie fund National Film Capital has just announced its upcoming slate at the Shanghai International Film Festival. The biggest financial commitment is to Stan Lee's* Chinese superhero project The Annihilator, but halfway down the list is a pleasant surprise for Bruce Lee fans: his screenplay The Silent Flute, left unmade at the time of his death in 1973, is set to be realised by producer Allan Hatcher.
The film is described as "a $25m action fantasy, including a significant martial arts component, set in a post-apocalyptic future in which a seeker embarks on a hero's journey to a city which may have survived the apocalypse." Hatcher is moving ahead with the full support of Lee's estate.
Lee planned the ambitious film as an introduction to Eastern philosophy and its contrast to Western thinking, as well as a fantastical slice of martial arts kick-assery. In a forward to the script, he explained, "To the Westerner, the finger jabs, the side kicks, the back fist etc. are tools of destruction and violence, which is indeed one of their functions. But the Oriental believes that the primary function of such tools is revealed when they are self-directed, and destroy greed, fear, anger and folly...
"'Purposelessness', 'empty-mindedness', or 'no-art' are frequent terms used in the Orient to denote the ultimate achievement of a martial artist. According to Zen, the spirit is by nature formless, and no 'objects' are to be harboured in it..."
Lee actually began the project in collaboration with his "student" James Coburn, but the pair fell out and the film was abandoned. Five years after Lee's death, The Silent Flute was re-written by Stanley Mann as the much-sanitised Circle Of Iron, the only film directed by Richard Moore. It starred David Carradine, Roddy McDowell, Eli Wallach and Christopher Lee*, but toned down the violence, threw in some laughs, and relocated the story from Thailand to a fantasy world that "never was and always is".
Hatcher's specific plans are unknown at this point, but the Lee family's involvement suggests a version truer to Lee's intentions this time around. The producer expects to be in production sometime in 2013.
*No relation to Bruce.