It seems that the latest TV version of China's classic novel "A Dream of Red Mansions" is to get through its long and difficult birth, especially the controversy-plagued casting call.
Director Li Shaohong decided to start shooting on April 5th and two major supporting roles were recently fixed, the Beijing Times quoted a source as saying.
Hollywood Chinese actress Tsai Chin, whose credits include Grey's Anatomy, Casino Royale and Memoirs of a Geisha, will appear in the drama as the matriarch Grandma Jia, while Yah-Leh Gui will star as Madame Wang, the hero's mother, the report said.
Executive producer of the drama, Li Xiaowan, confirmed the news and said the production team is on a tight schedule for the preparation works.
"It is a super drama in scale," Li said, "There are 388 roles, and altogether 2,960 prop items are involved, not to mention the furnishings. We have a huge amount of work to do and need at least one month to finish it. "
Director Li Shaohong told the Beijing Times that the lead male role of Jia Baoyu remained undecided.
A year-long talent show was held between August 2006 to June 2007 to cast the TV series, but ended without the lead actor being cast and the director, Hu Mei, resigning out of dissatisfaction with the selected actresses.
Li Shaohong took over Hu's job and overturned the partially-filled cast. At the end of this January, Bai Bing and Yao Di, two unknown actresses who were among top winners of the talent show, were announced to play the two heroines Xue Baochai and Lin Daiyu.
A Dream of Red Mansions, written during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) by Cao Xueqin (1715-1763), is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of Chinese fiction. The story traces the lives and loves of a wealthy family, who symbolize the decline and myopia of feudal society.
Various television and film incarnations of the novel have been produced during the past few decades, among which the most successful was a TV adaptation screened in 1987.
(CRI March 10, 2008)