SWITCH­ING GEARS

Xu Lei be­comes scriptwriter for a new film based on his se­ries of nov­els. re­ports.

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - Con­tact the writer at xu­fan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

... at (Hol­ly­wood) block­busters, very few cast Chi­nese as pro­tag­o­nists ... Chi­nese cul­ture has yet to be rec­og­nized glob­ally.” scriptwriter Xu Fan

Deemed one of China’s ear­li­est nov­el­ists to usher in a boom in “tomb-rob­bing” lit­er­a­ture, Xu Lei is pol­ish­ing a newiden­tity now.

“My am­bi­tion is to com­pete for an Os­car, not a No­bel Prize,” the 34-year-old au­thor, more fa­mil­iar by his pseudonymNan­pai San­shu, tells China Daily in a re­cent in­ter­view.

Al­though Xu clar­i­fies that he is jok­ing, he has shown an in­ter­est in the lu­cra­tive movie in­dus­try.

Nowhe’s work­ing mainly as a busi­ness­man and a scriptwriter.

He founded a com­pany in Bei­jing named af­ter him­self and­set its blue­print tode­velop his works into di­verse en­ter­tain­ment con­tent such as movies, TV se­ries and games.

The new­film Time Raiders, writ­ten by Xu, is set for a na­tion­wide re­lease on Fri­day.

The sto­ryof the film is based on two books of The Grave Rob­bers’ Chron­i­cles se­ries thatXube­ganto write in 2006. He pub­lished nine from the se­ries un­til 2011. As­many as 12 mil­lion copies of the se­ries as have been sold so far, win­ning Xu more than 11 mil­lion fans on the Twit­ter-like Si­naWeibo plat­form and mak­ing him a top-earn­ing Chi­nese writer.

The book se­ries has been adapted into a stage play, a 12-episode on­line se­ries and video games. De­spite the novel’s pop­u­lar­ity, the adapted on­line se­ries, The Lost Tomb, had sparked crit­i­cism in 2015 for de­vi­at­ing from the orig­i­nal con­tent and the pro­duc­tion’s poor vis­ual ef­fects.

But deter­mined to have more­con­trol of the adap­ta­tion now, Xu has writ­ten the script for the film Time Raiders.

“We know that rob­bing tombs is il­le­gal, which should not be praised on the big screen, so the movie han­dles it as a back­drop,” Xu says, wear­ing a Chi­nese-style suit.

The new des­ti­na­tion for the ad­ven­ture in the film is buried deeply in a fic­tional moun­tain bor­der­ing China and some coun­tries in Cen­tral Asia.

Time Raiders is di­rected by Hong Kong vet­eran Daniel Lee and has main­land stars Jing Bo­ran and Lu Han in lead roles. Xu Lei,

The sto­ry­line re­volves around peo­ple who open a tomb to un­veil a long-buried se­cret to im­mor­tal­ity rooted in an­cient Chi­ne­se­myth.

Xu, who some­times fails to fill the holes in his nov­els, ini­tially strug­gled with ex­ces­sive twists in his script for the film.

Com­ment­ing on his script, Lee says: “Xu first wrote a story that had some 70,000 Chi­nese char­ac­ters. If I had shot a film based on his first draft, it would have taken six hours of screen­ing.

“But I was very im­pressed by Xu’s writ­ing skills. His lan­guage and rich knowl­edge of Chi­nese his­tory made the fi­nal script very at­trac­tive.”

The di­rec­tor re­veals that the most ap­peal­ing part of the script is the emo­tional con­nec­tion be­tween the raiders.

Af­ter re­vis­ing the script nearly 20 times in two years, the shoot­ing be­gan in a 6,000-square-meter area in Bei­jing, where spe­cial ef­fects were done by an in­ter­na­tional team.

In­ter­est­ingly, de­spite the over­seas tech­ni­cal sup­port, Xu has a dif­fer­ent view on Chi­nese film­mak­ers’ for­eign am­bi­tions.

“If you take a look at (Hol­ly­wood) block­busters, very few cast Chi­nese as pro­tag­o­nists. In some sense, it means Chi­nese cul­ture has yet to be rec­og­nized glob­ally,” he says.

The deeper he stud­ies cul­tural dif­fer­ences, the more he thinks that Chi­nese movies should still fo­cus on the do­mes­tic mar­ket, Xu says.

When asked if his next plan is to take the di­rec­tor’s chair, as fel­low nov­el­ists Han Han and Guo Jing­ming have done, Xu gives a sly smile.

“It’s a very painstak­ing job. I’m afraid I can’t af­ford the stress,” he says, adding that Lee wakes up at 4 am to start work.

It might be too early to pre­dict how far the writer will tap into the show­biz in­dus­try. His ner­vous­ness and wor­ries are ob­vi­ous.

On a re­cent Sina Weibo post for his “book fans”, he wrote: “I’m writ­ing for a film for the first time. If there are short­com­ings, please don’t blame me too much.”

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

TimeRaiders, star­ring Jing Bo­ran, is the lat­est adap­ta­tion of Xu Lei’s best-sell­ing se­ries Grave Rob­bers’ Chron­i­cles.

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