Kung fu star Jet Li may have to appear in a court next month after his name was added to the list of those being sued over his latest movie Fearless.
The film is a biography of real Chinese kung fu hero, Huo Yuanjia, which is the Chinese name of the movie. Huo who died 96 years ago is still revered in China and the rest of Asia.
The movie has annoyed descendants of Huo's family, who are upset that the film's plot sullies the reputation of the revered kung fu master and his offspring. Huo Shoujin, the grandson of Huo Yuanjia, wants Fearless removed from theatres and a public apology from the producers.
Lawyer Yang Zhonghai, hired by Huo's family in Tianjin, said Jet Li's name was added to the suit as the action star not only played the lead role but participated in the making and production of the movie.
Li said Fearless would be his last fight-movie, ending a 25-year long martial arts career. The film is poised for wide release in North America later this year.
Li has been widely quoted in the Chinese media as saying his role as Huo Yuanjia (1869-1910) was meant to pay homage to the martial arts master. Huo was the founder and spiritual leader of the Jing Wu Federation, a kung fu organization in the early 1900s in China.
The movie attempts to express his views on martial arts, Chinese culture and life. The movie was a hit blockbuster when released in January in Asia, Li said.
Huo, grandson of Huo Yuanjia, said he believes the film is completely inaccurate. It portrays his ancestor as a man who killed many innocent people just for the sport of it. It also shows Huo's redemption and eventual self-fulfilment comes through his unrequited love for a blind girl.
The film shows Huo's family being murdered and Huo dying without any heirs, which could make people suspicious of his family's claim to be direct descendants, says the family's lawyer.
The family was also unhappy that Huo was portrayed as a wealthy man with servants, when he actually had a working-class background.
Huo Shoujin sued Fearless producers, Beijing Film Studio and Anle Film Co Ltd on March 7 in Beijing's Haidian District Court, for maligning the reputation of his family.
The film has already been released in the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand, according to Li's official website. It is scheduled to debut later this year in France, Germany, Japan, South Korea and the United States.
(China Daily March 27, 2006)