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World War Z, Iron Man tweak scripts for Chinese market

Categories: Movies

With the Chinese box office second only to North America's in 2012, Hollywood studios have become hyper-aware of the need to please such a significant market. Case in point: World War Z, the anticipated upcoming zombie apocalypse film, has changed the scourge's point of origin so as not to put off Chinese censors and audiences.

In the potentially offending scene, characters indicate China on a map as the source of an outbreak that sparks a zombie apocalypse, according to a Paramount executive. That scene is being re-shot with another country pinpointed as ground zero for the outbreak. The $175-million US picture, starring Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Bryan Cranston and Matthew Fox, clearly wants to make some of its money back in the Chinese market.

Skyfall, Cloud Atlas cut

Meanwhile, films that show China as a source of unethical behaviour or violence are being cut before even making the trip into Chinese cinemas. The James Bond film Skyfall screened in China minus references to Chinese torture of British agents. Also removed was a scene in which a hitman shoots a Chinese bodyguard in Shanghai. When a Chinese woman discusses her past as a prostitute, the scene appeared without subtitles.

Similarly Cloud Atlas, a surprising hit in China, screened without its love scenes, gay or straight. (Still, perhaps it was a mercy to lose 38 minutes from the film's monstrously long run time).

Iron Man 3 Robert Downey Jr. appears as Tony Stark/Iron Man in a scene from Marvel's Iron Man 3. The film will include "bonus scenes" for Chinese audiences. (Zade Rosenthal/Marvel)

Over at Disney/Marvel, there are plans for a special cut of Iron Man 3 for the Chinese market. China-based partner DMG will help shoot special scenes in China, featuring local product sponsors, domestic locations and an appearance by Chinese star Fan Bingbing.

For other filmmakers, high-profile partnerships with Chinese studios, like the one made by the Transformers 4 team, smooth the path into the country.

Looking at the history of Hollywood bad guys, the Russians and East Germans of Cold War-era films gave way to the Chechens, the Chinese and, more recently, Middle Eastern terrorists. Look for another shift — to the North Koreans, for instance — as scriptwriters take stock of Hollywood's new reality.

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