Page last updated at 12:15 GMT, Monday, 16 March 2009

Chow Yun-Fat to star as Confucius

A statue of Confucius and actor Chow Yun-Fat
Confucius was derided during China's Cultural Revolution of the 1960s

Hong Kong actor Chow Yun-Fat is to star as revered philosopher Confucius in a HKD $22 million (2m) biopic backed by the Chinese government.

Best known for his gangster roles, Chow will swap his trademark trench coat for scholarly robes in the movie.

The film will be a joint production between Beijing-based Dadi Cinema and the state-run China Film Group, a Dadi Cinema official told Associated Press.

Filming is due to begin in three weeks. A release date has yet to be announced.

The movie comes amid a surge in interest in the philosopher, who was practically outlawed during China's Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.

Mao Zedong and his followers criticised him, calling him feudal, old-fashioned and part of the bourgeois hierarchical thinking of the past.

Enforcers known as "red guards" descended on Confucius's family home, grave and a temple in his home town of Qufu, where they destroyed about 6,600 relics.

But as China's recent economic boom put stress on the country's Marxist ideologies, officials began to promote Confucian virtues as a way of addressing the gap between the rich and poor.

The philosopher lived in about 500BC, and served as an adviser during the Zhou Dynasty.

At a time when China was gripped with chaos and crime, he produced a moral system as a basis to run society, life and government.

His teachings transformed the country, serving as a model for Chinese dynasties, and also had an influence in other parts of east Asia.

Later emperors glorified the philosopher, and helped construct a huge temple and mansion in his honour.

Chow Yun-Fat's biggest-profile hit in the UK was Ang Lee's martial arts epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

He will next be seen in UK cinemas in Dragonball Evolution, a live-action adaptation of the successful anime series, which premieres in April.

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