John Woo Is Making A Historical Drama Film About Chinese-American Luminary Dean Lung

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Golden Princess Film Production

Legendary filmmaker John Woo’s latest film hasn’t even hit theaters yet, but he apparently already has another project in the works. Woo told Variety that before he retires from filmmaking, he wants to make a movie about Dean Lung, the Chinese-American valet who ended up funding Columbia’s Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures in the early 1900s.

Lung worked for Horace Carpentier, the first mayor of Oakland, California, and Woo reportedly wants to focus the film on the pair’s relationship. “[Lung] was this man’s servant and there were conflicts at the beginning, but later, they started to learn from each other,” Woo said. “When he retired, he donated all his savings to the university. His picture still hangs on the wall.”
Though best known for his action films, Woo says the project, tentatively titled “Dean Lung,” will be a “serious drama, but not too serious.” The film is currently in the script and financing stages. First, though, the “Face/Off” filmmaker is set to release “Silent Night,” a Joel Kinnaman-led revenge action film that’s apparently completely wordless.

More details on Woo’s new project

Paramount

As Woo continues to challenge himself as a filmmaker, he also says he wants to make a movie that could help heal a cultural divide. The director told Variety:

“These days, there are so many misunderstandings between the people in the West and the people in the East. I think we need to work on it more, work on understanding each other. I want to make a movie that would serve as a bridge between two different cultures. We can be friends – I really believe that.”

The story of Dean Lung, which was captured in part in a 1931 issue of The New Yorker, is certainly a culturally complicated one. That article refers to Carpentier as Lung’s “master,” and as a Chinese immigrant at the turn of the century, Lung was almost certainly not on equal social or economic footing with Carpentier, a New York-born white man. However, after Lung’s initial donation, Carpentier continued donating to the Columbia program that was founded by Lung in honor of his former valet.
The pair aren’t exactly what one would imagine as buddy movie material, especially when taking into account Carpentier’s apparent takeover of the Bay Area waterfront. According to old issues of the San Fransisco Call, Carpentier was accused of fraud after acquiring a significant amount of land from a prominent Spanish-American family. The Californian Magazine also reported that Carpentier helped facilitate the construction of a telegraph line on Native American land.

“Dean Lung” seems to be a passion project for Woo, so it’ll be interesting to see how he tackles the complex true story of Lung and Carpentier. The film does not yet have a release date.

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