Known for the groundbreaking animated feature, THE LION KING, director Robert Minkoff received the script of THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM from producer Casey Silver shortly after returning from a trip to China. Minkoff had learned of the legend of the Monkey King during his travels, only to discover weeks later that it was the inspiration for THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM. “It was very much an omen,” recalls the director. “The script was terrific; all the characters were charismatic and jumped to life. And the opportunity to work with Jet Li and Jackie Chan was such a once in a lifetime opportunity. I agreed at once.”
“I was really taken with Rob, both because of his past work, and also for his great interest, admiration and respect for Chinese culture,” says Silver. “I found him to be extraordinarily astute about the stories, the characters and the story structure. This, combined with his past experience and the movies he has made, seemed to make him the perfect man for the job. We were very lucky to have him.”
“The miracle of Rob’s direction is that he was able to create a film with a Western point of view that can still be appreciated by Asians and the Chinese,” says Li.
Minkoff wanted to give THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM a different tone from the recent spate of martial arts films that began with CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. “While remaining faithful to the cultural traditions that make martial arts films so special and unique, we wanted to make a more universally accessible movie that would be enjoyed by people of all ages and cultures,” he explains.
Adds Silver, “Rob’s tone as a storyteller is peppered with a playfulness and a comedic bent. He understands romance and he understands emotion. He has been able to depict the classic underpinnings of the hero’s journey with a humorous tone, which is what we wanted to achieve.”
Action superstar Jet Li, who has two young daughters, sees the wide appeal of the film as an advantage. “Having made so many violent movies in my career to date, I thought it was about time I made a film that families with children will be able to enjoy together. This is the film that I am making for my two girls.”
“Being both a martial arts film and a contemporary American film makes this unlike any martial arts film before,” adds executive producer Raffaella De Laurentiis. “All we wanted to do is make a fun, good movie that will appeal to both the East and the West, and I think we’ve done it.”