Wayne Wang's 1993 adaptation of the Amy Tan novel "The Joy Luck Club" put the Chinese-American filmmaker on the map in Hollywood by turning an Asian family drama into an American box office success story.
Thirteen years later, Wang is about to release another film with shades of his career-making movie. Like "Joy Luck Club," "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" explores the past and present of Chinese women. "Snow Flower" is also based on the work of a Chinese-American writer, this time Lisa See's novel of the same name.
"Snow Flower" also marks Wang's reunion with "Joy Luck Club" actress Vivian Wu, a Shanghai native. Oscar-winning screenwriter Ronald Bass, who co-wrote the "Joy Luck Club" screenplay with Tan, also worked on the script for "Snow Flower."
But promoting "Snow Flower" on the sidelines of the Shanghai International Film Festival on Sunday, Wang said the similarities end there.
"I think it's very different from 'Joy Luck Club.' I don't want to make another movie like 'Joy Luck Club.' 'Joy Luck Club' is about mother-daughter relationships. This is the story of two female friends," Wang said.
Starring Chinese actress Li Bingbing and South Korea's Jeon Ji-hyun with a cameo from Hugh Jackman, "Snow Flower" explores the friendship between two Chinese women in the 1800s and the friendship between two of their descendants.
While Wang is eager to move on from "The Joy Luck Club," Wu called it a classic that still brings her to tears. The movie version explores the pasts of four Chinese immigrants and their relationships with their American daughters.
"Even now, when I see it on TV I will sit down and watch the entire film and still cry," Wu said.
While Wang, whose credits also include "Smoke" and "Anywhere But Here," has a history of sourcing material from Chinese-American writers _ he also adapted Li Yiyun's stories "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers" and "The Princess of Nebraska" _ the "Snow Flower" adaptation did not originate with him.
Wendi Deng Murdoch, the Chinese-born wife of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, bought the rights and helped secure its mostly Chinese funding. Fox Searchlight Pictures, a unit of Murdoch's News Corp., is releasing the movie in the U.S. on July 15. Mixing Chinese and English dialogue, the film was shot in China and will be released there on June 24.
"I read the book four years ago and really liked it," Wendi Murdoch said. "I really identified with it. Even though the story is about two Chinese women, it is about the friendship of two women and how they overcame different difficulties and different situations in life. Even though this story happened in China, this kind of story happens in every country, every race, so it is a universal theme."
Wang said the book "is about the very intense relationship between two women in a male-dominated society. It's a very rare story."
He said the language barrier between Li and Jeon produced unexpected on-screen chemistry because they focused on body language instead.
"Actors often focus too much on dialogue but dialogue is only a small part of the equation. The gaze of your eyes, your gestures are equally important. This was a rare occasion when we saw actors perform this way," he said.