Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) has signed on to direct a drama based on the life of Morris Abraham “Two Gun” Cohen. Cohen was a World War I veteran who move to China in 1922 and trained the army of Sun Yat-sen, a revolutionary who played an instrumental role in throwing over China’s last imperial dynasty. Cohen taught Sun’s army boxing and shooting, which was impressive considering that Cohen didn’t speak Chinese. He then went on to become Sun’s main bodyguards and later went on to fight for China against Japanese invaders in the 1930s.
Hit the jump for more on the project.
The film is being produced by Rob Reiner and Alan Greisman. Liman had recently made trips to East Asia and wanted to make a movie in the region. As for Greisman, he grew up with the story of Two-Gun Cohen and when you hear Liman explain it to THR, that fascination is easy to understand:
“He’s a thief and a con man who goes to China with visions of self-aggrandizement, but while he’s there he falls for the country and for a woman. The story falls off the shelf without having to twist the facts.” Liman said. “It’s almost hard to believe it happened.”
Griesman and Liman believe that with the current rise of the Chinese film industry, the time is right to make a story about Cohen’s life. Matt Brown was hired to pen the movie based on his script about James Bond creator Ian Fleming. “Matt’s got a way with telling the story of a man with a complex international identity,” Liman said.”
Once the script is finished, Liman plans to make the film a big international picture. “I’ve been making extremely American movies and this is a chance to make a movie that plays out on an international scale: we’ve got the Westerners, the Brits, the warlords and then all the Chinese culture.”
If you’re reading this and starting to become uncomfortable with “White Guy Is the Hero of Foreign Culture” plot that seems to be coming to the surface, you’re not the only one. While I don’t doubt that Cohen was an important figure, it sounds like Liman and his fellow producers are developing yet another historical drama where a culture doesn’t get to be the hero of their own story. The only twist is that they’re trying to get the Chinese to finance the picture.
Of course, once you have Chinese money making the film, you have to worry about China’s film censors. Liman says doesn’t seem to concerned about their influence and explains:
“Our future is going to include China. I was blown away by the creativity and flexibility of the filmmakers in China, which makes Hollywood seem rigid.”
I don’t know if that means China’s censors aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be or if Hollywood self-censorship is so much worse than we’ve come to believe. I’m betting it’s the latter.