Director Justin Lin has acquired the film rights to playwright David Henry Hwang’s 2011 stage work “Chinglish.” Lin, who most recently directed Universal’s $626-million-grossing actioner “Fast Five,” will direct and produce the project through his Barnstorm Pictures banner. Hwang will adapt the screenplay.
“As soon as I saw ‘Chinglish’ on Broadway, I began to envision this smart and insightful cross-cultural comedy as a film,” said Lin. Hwang will co-produce the project with Bobbi Thompson.
The smaller-scale comedy project is a change of pace for Lin, who has spent the better part of the past decade helming mainstream studio fare such as three of the “Fast and the Furious” films and the 2006 Disney action drama “Annapolis.” He also has flirted recently with directing the next film in the “Terminator” franchise and a reboot of “Highlander,” and he’s directed episodes of “Community” on NBC.
But “Chinglish” could be a return to his indie roots. Lin’s “Better Luck Tomorrow,” which he co-wrote and directed in 2002 on a shoestring budget, was a bracing look at the smart Asian stereotype inside the trappings of a gritty thriller. It marked him as a stylish and serious minority director (he’s Taiwanese-American), but his projects since, while very successful, haven’t exemplified that same distinctive talent.
Performed in both English and Mandarin, “Chinglish” is a politically adept romantic comedy about an American businessman who travels to China on assignment to secure a contract for his company. It debuted at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and finished a Broadway run in January. An international tour is planned for the Berkeley Repertory Theatre this fall.
Though the film project does not yet have a distributor, Lin’s Barnstorm Pictures signed a two-year first-look deal with Universal in August.