Image via Hollywood Reporter
‘Tailoring a film for China’ typically implies chopping out controversial scenes and toning down the sex and violence. With Iron Man 3, this tailoring is less to trim the fat and is more an attempt to gain some Chinese weight. The Chinese cut of the film is slated to include several China-centric scenes and even entire characters who didn’t make it into the international release.
One specific example is the role played by Fan Bingbing, Chinese film star and sex-doll model. Fan is completely cut from the international release of the film, and will only be seen by Chinese audiences. Even more bizarre is the case of Wang Xueqi. In the international version, he is but a 10-seconds-of-screentime throwaway at the very beginning of the film. In the Chinese version, he is a developed character. The Chinese trailer of the film features both Wang and Fan, despite the fact that neither actor has any significant presence in the international release.
It is hard to tell which of the film’s backers’ ideas is the worst; that international audiences don’t want to see main Chinese characters, or that the Chinese market can be enticed into seeing films just because of some extra China-centric scenes. The Guardian interviewed Wang about his role in the film, and the director about the movie’s Chinese scenes:
Wang, whose previous credits include Yellow Earth and Reign of Assassins, told the Hollywood Reporter that he had accepted the role on the understanding that Dr Wu would be a major figure in the drama. “I said to this person contacting me: ‘It wouldn’t do if it was a character who’s finished off after a few fights,'” he recalled. “I was then assured that, ‘No, you’re going to be the man who saves his [Iron Man’s] life.”
Wang went on to describe the character as “a very complicated individual” and the role as “very challenging”. But the international version of Iron Man 3 reportedly restricts Wang’s appearance to a 10-second sequence in the opening scene, plus a fleeting glimpse towards the end of the film where his face is obscured by a mask. […]
Director Shane Black explained that the film’s producers required some scenes to be shot in China, but admitted that neither he nor the film’s star, Robert Downey Jr, had shot them. “I was told they wanted additional content for China,” Black said. “It was sort of an experiment and I was very interested by it … I looked at the scenes to sort of approve them.”[…]
Zhang Pimin, deputy chief of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television recently criticised what he described as “fake” co-productions that did not contain enough bespoke Chinese content.
Of course this is at least partly SARFT’s fault. Hopefully international directors will come to terms with how to access the Chinese market, and actually want to include scenes in the country. At present, this limbo in which Chinese scenes are shot by others and included only for the Chinese audience is (hopefully) too bizarre to last.