Four Chinese actors will join the cast of Transformers 4, thanks to cooperation between production company Paramount Pictures and the China Movie Channel.
The China Movie Channel and its official website, M1905.com, will hold a nationwide audition to cast the four actors via a reality TV show, says Marc Ganis, principal of Jiaflix Enterprises, founded by Sid Ganis, the former head of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Jiaflix has been a middleman between Paramount and the Movie Channel.
Transformers 4 director Michael Bay says he is looking forward to seeing the best talent China has to offer in his film.
Casting started on Thursday on M1905.com, says Liang Longfei, vice-president of the website.
Michael Bay, director of the hit franchise, will announce three themes for contestants to work with. The wannabe movie stars, men and women, need to submit an audition tape by June 30. One hundred people will be selected for training and testing in July. The China Movie Channel will document the training and testing and broadcast it on television.
The judging panel, including Sid Ganis, producer Lorenzo DiBonaventura and Megan Colligan, Paramount's marketing and distribution chief, will decide the final four winners in mid-August.
"We are looking forward to seeing the best talent China has to offer in the future film of Transformers 4 directed by Michael Bay," says Colligan in pre-recorded video footage shown at a press conference on Thursday in Beijing.
"By casting in this way we are exploring an innovative way of co-producing films with major Hollywood studios," says Liang.
Liang and Marc say that in addition to the four actors selected from the reality show, two experienced Chinese actors, will also join the cast.
China, having taken the place of Japan as the second largest box office territory after the United States, is the highest-grossing overseas market for many Hollywood blockbusters, including Transformers 3. The film grossed 1.1 billion yuan ($176 million) in China in 2011 and was the top-grossing film in the country that year.
But China imports only 34 foreign films a year to its theaters, where the number of screens has grown to 13,000 in 2012 from 9,000 in 2011.
Authorities examine all film plots, especially those related to China, to determine if the film is suitable for Chinese audiences.
"We will definitely offer suggestions to Paramount on the best way to ensure the film will have a good launch in the Chinese market," says Liang.
Transformers 4, to be released in June 2014, will be partly shot on the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong. But the Chinese storyline, according to Ganis and Liang, is still under discussion.
The film will not have a special version only for China, such as Iron Man 3 has done, with a version of the film featuring Chinese actress Fan Bingbing only released in the Chinese market. Whether the Chinese actors selected from the reality show will appear in the global release is up to Michael Bay's final cut, says Ganis.