Hong Kong megastar Chow Yun-fat said Thursday that he was confident a biopic about the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius can take on the hugely popular computer-graphics-laden, 3-D Hollywood blockbuster "Avatar."
The 54-year-old actor best known for his iconic gangster roles in Hong Kong cinema donned scholarly robes to play the ancient sage in the $22 million government-backed movie "Confucius," which premieres Thursday in Beijing.
Chow said he expected "Confucius" to put up a good fight against James Cameron's science fiction fantasy "Avatar," a global hit that raced to $4.8 million on its first day in China and is expected to earn more than 500 million yuan ($73 million) at the Chinese box office.
"If the two films were shown at the same time, those who go to see 'Avatar' will also go to see 'Confucius,' and those who go to 'Confucius' will also see 'Avatar,'" Chow said at a news conference in Beijing.
"They are two different kinds of movies, but they are both about humanity," the "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" star said.
The movie, which opens to general audiences in China on Jan. 22, is part of a recent revival of Confucius, whom late Chinese leader Mao Zedong denounced because his emphasis on harmony and respect of social hierarchies conflicted with the Marxist ideology of progress through conflict.
During the 1966-1976 ultra-leftist Cultural Revolution under Mao's rule, enforcers known as "red guards" descended on Confucius' family home, family grave plot and a temple honoring the sage in his eastern hometown of Qufu, destroying about 6,600 relics.
But the status of the ancient sage has been reaffirmed in recent years.
Confucian classics have been given higher status at universities and even prisons have been reportedly teaching Confucian philosophy to prisoners. The Chinese government started setting up Confucius Institutes abroad in 2004 to promote Chinese language and culture. A female professor's book of reflections on the classic Confucian text "Analects" became a massive hit.
Chow made his name with stylish Hong Kong gangster thrillers like "A Better Tomorrow" before making his Hollywood debut with the 1998 action movie "The Replacement Killers." Other American credits include "Anna and the King," "Bulletproof Monk," "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," and "Dragonball Evolution."
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