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Donnie Yen to lead ‘Kung Fu’ film adaptation: report

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Donnie Yen is reportedly set to lead a feature film adaptation of the classic TV series, "Kung Fu."

A reimagining of a classic: The original "Kung Fu" TV series, which ran for three seasons on ABC starting in 1972, followed master martial artist Kwai Chang Caine (David Carradine) as he navigated the challenges of the Old West.

The film adaptation by 87North and Universal Pictures is spearheaded by director David Leitch ("John Wick," "Deadpool 2") and screenwriter Stephen Chin ("War Dogs"), as per Deadline. The filmmakers have enlisted Ed Spielman, creator of the original "Kung Fu" series, as executive producer.

A superstar at work: Yen, 60, is known for his groundbreaking work in action cinema such as the “IP Man” film series. More recently, he starred in “John Wick: Chapter 4.” Leitch commended the star and expressed excitement about collaborating with him.

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“Donnie Yen is both an immensely talented actor and an action film legend, and it is a privilege to have a true martial arts master leading this global film,” Leitch said, according to Deadline. “With Donnie in place as our leading man, it will be a thrill to collaborate with him, our creative partners, and Universal in reimagining this beloved story for the big screen.”

The rest of the cast members, as well as the production schedule, have yet to be announced.

Original show’s controversies: The original show faced criticism for “yellowface” for casting a white actor to play the lead role, a Shaolin monk of Chinese descent. The casting choice was seen by many as a missed opportunity to showcase Asian talent. Some viewers also found the show's depiction of Chinese culture and characters to be inaccurate and reinforced harmful stereotypes about Asians.

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A show reimagined: The 2021 CW reboot of "Kung Fu," which starred Olivia Liang ("Grey's Anatomy," "Legacies"), addresses the original show's criticisms. Showrunner Christina Kim told NextShark in an interview in 2022 that she aimed to use the “Kung Fu” IP to inspire a new generation of Asian Americans.

“When I was developing this show, it was really important for the narrative and for the family that I was trying to build to have the lead characters be fully Asian or Asian American,” she said.

The show, which was canceled last year, featured cast members Tzi Ma, Kheng Hua Tan, Shannon Dang, Yvonne Chapman, Ludi Lin, Tony Chung, Jon Prasida, Gavin Stenhouse, Eddie Liu, Ben Levin, Vanessa Kai and JB Tadena, among others.

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