Donnie Yen and Chow Yun-Fat Not Committed to "The Monkey King 2"

Chow Yun-Fat, Aaron Kwok, and Donnie Yen in "The Monkey King"

Chow Yun-Fat originally said he would return for a sequel to the $65M budgeted The Monkey King if it makes $150M at the box office in China, which is its breakeven mark.

Well, the fantasy film ended up with $168M before dropping off the top ten -- way past that goal. Add to that the $30M in sales from foreign rights before the film even hits home video, and you get a decently profitable production.

Donnie Yen has been wavering back and forth with his decision regarding a sequel. During filming of the first film, he had to endure five hours of make-up work daily to portray the title character and also had to direct the action while he was in full monkey gear. For him, it was a grueling shoot, and he’s not sure if he wants to go through that experience again.

Now that the film has broken several box office records in China, including the biggest opening day gross of all time, the studio behind the CGI heavy actioner wants to fast-track a sequel. Shooting is to begin in August of this year with the same budget for a 2016 release.

The only problem is both of The Monkey King’s leading stars have scheduling conflicts. Chow is shooting three films this year, one of which is the rumored sequel to the 2012 action hit Cold War. Yen will start production on The Weinstein Company’s sequel to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon with co-star Michelle Yeoh and director Yuen Woo-Ping in August, the same month as The Monkey King 2.

In addition to that, both stars aren’t too keen to start on a sequel so soon. Because his character is a supporting role, Chow didn’t think it’s a big deal whether or not he returns. Although Yen’s role is central to the sequel, he has creative concerns; he doesn’t want to repeat himself.

As Yen’s character is key to the storyline for the second film, I don’t see how the studio can move on without his commitment. Also, the post-production work alone on The Monkey King took a couple years, so getting the sequel ready for a 2016 release seems too optimistic.

Of course, this could all just be negotiation tactics from all parties involved. I’m sure after a bit of time has passed and they’re done counting their millions, everyone will be back for more monkey business.

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