Michael Scofield to come to China

UPDATE (2007.05.16): The Shanghai Morning Post now reports that Fox has denied the sale of rights for any international version, which probably implies that Wentworth Miller won't be coming to China after all. The Chinese side responded: "We're basically only missing a signature." None of that detracts from the great tabloid writing below.

The hero of Prison Break is coming to China, rumors say. The name "Michael Scofield" became famous with audiences who devoured the show in online bootlegs and pirated discs - it never aired on Chinese TV in an authorized edition. The silver lining to the piracy: a Chinese media company recently paid Fox US$1.2 million for the right to produce an online adaptation.

Now it's rumored that the actor who plays Michael, Wentworth Miller, will be in China when the miniseries premieres in June. From an article on

Recent reports have brought the news that the mainland film company Zonbo Media has arranged with American TV station Fox to purchase adaptation rights to Prison Break to make a Chinese Prison Break. According to a connected source, the company has also invited Prison Break protagonist Michael to come to China in June. Apart from increasing exposure for the Chinese version of Prison Break, the company will have Michael take on various commercial activities in China, making money together with the agency.

Although Zonbo Media, which bought the adaptation rights to Prison Break, has not yet made a statement clarifying its position, a source with the company revealed that Zonbo has arranged with Fox to invite Michael to China and has begun planning commercial activities....In addition to appearing at the premiere of the Chinese version of Prison Break, Michael will be on the scene to direct the lead actor and actress from blog talent pool.

According to rumor, Michael has requested private planes and trains for this trip to China, and will travel with an entourage of more than 200 people, far more grand and ostentatious than Ayumi Hamasaki. Just transportation, food, and lodging fees may leave producers scratching their heads; they've really outdone themselves this time.

What form will this adaptation take? Here's a widely-circulated forum post that questions whether a program like Prison Break can be successfully adapted for the mainland market without losing the elements that make it distinctive.

Musings on the Chinese version of Prison Break

(author unknown)

There will be a Chinese version filmed of Prison Break. My first reaction on hearing this news was a bitter smile: could it be possible? Unfortunately, I discovered before long that the media company had the gall to spend US$1.2 million to buy the online adaptation rights to Prison Break, and it plans to film a 200 minute online movie.

After making sure that this was not an April Fool's joke, ideas flashed across my mind: how would a Chinese Prison Break be adapted so that it would pass the TV censors?

First, when would the story take place? This is no joke - to enter the Chinese market, Hong Kong films in recent years have suffered on that front. Take gangster movies. If there's a mole in the police department, they must explain that this is in the pre-1997 Royal Police; the ranks of the post-1997 police are brilliant figures under the leadership of the party, so how could a mole mix in with them? If you don't give on that front, then sorry, the mainland market does not welcome you. Given this reality, what's a proper era for Prison Break, which hints at a government conspiracy and digs up government scandals among the highest levels of leadership? After the reform and opening up? You must be joking! Under the brilliant leadership of the party, could our country possibly have injustice, framed convictions, and mistaken judgments? And if so, then you only need to make a direct report to a party cadre one level up, and you're guaranteed speedy redress. The main character elects to "break out" to solve his problems, a choice that violates the "Three Represents" thought and the "Eight Honors and Shames" spirit? This idea is obviouly objectionable. Cut! Furthermore, how could our government have conspiracies? The top leadership are the most upright and impartial in the world - Magistrate Bao, all of them - how could there be scandals in governance? You're anti-government and anti-party? Cut! Fine, after reform and opening up is no good, so the Cultural Revolution should be OK. There were indeed a good number of injust, framed, and mistaken cases during the Cultural Revolution, but can you casually ridicule conspiracies in the party-led government and scandals among the highest leadership? Concerning the Cultural Revolution, you can only say how our party struggled with the Gang of Four and ultimately brought it down. Even more, in that era when black was white and right was wrong, there was basically no difference between the inside of the prison and the outside, so why would the protagonist want to break out? And even if he succeeded, how would his story continue? Where would he file a complaint? Better to stay obediently in jail and wait for our wise leaders to overturn the Gang of Four and help you find redress. OK, OK, so I've learned my lesson, we can't use the era of Communist Party rule. So in the Republican era, when the Nationalist Party was in power, it'd be OK to break out of prison. Good, the Nationalist Party is the root of all evil, the Nationalist Regime was the blackest and most corrupt, so this will pass muster.

Having decided that the story will be set in the Republican era, what should the hero be? Such an intelligent young man in that era, one who exposes Nationalist government plots, would of course be a progressive youth of the times, that is, a communist. Best if he's an underground communist. The hero's older brother poured out his life for the Nationalist government, which absurdly sent him to prison. To rescue his older brother and complete his secret mission from the party, the younger brother, as an underground party member, puts his life in danger to enter the feculent prison just like a second Sister Jiang, and in the end, with the assistance of all underground party members, easily rescues his brother from prison and reveals the traitorous nature of the Nationalists. But while it will pass the TV censors, it makes life hard for the script writers: US$1.2 million has been spent on adaptation rights, so how is it that this seems like we've written a completely new script? Where are there water pipes and air vents in a sewer-like prison? And if we can't use any kind of modern communication equipment, how can anyone break out of this prison?

That's right, everyone, we want to watch Prison Break, but after passing inspection by our TV censor system, the whole thing turns into a "prison break" version of Red Crag or a "red crag" version of Prison Break. This is no exaggeration - if you don't believe me, you can look what happens to Hong Kong films. The Infernal Affairs series, so popular recently, is a case in point. In the first Infernal Affairs film, the story occurred after 1997, but there was an underworld "spy" within the police department. Although the "spy" entered the police squad before '97, that wasn't enough, and Andy Lau's police mole had to be arrested at the end (this destroyed the creative stroke of the writers - Tony Leung said, sorry, I'm a policeman. Andy Lau (scornfully): Who knows?) So audience on the mainland who watched the first version clearly saw Andy Lau's arrest and his identity being exposed....

I have no idea how the Chinese version of Prison Break is being adapted to pass the TV censors. A netizen once spitefully guessed that Prison Break will be cut and altered when it is sent up, so that it becomes a "main theme" picture in which state cadres rescue lost lambs. I only know that someone has already spent real money to buy the adaptation rights to the script. I'm waiting to see what kind of film it turns out to be.

* * *

Interestingly, the Republican-era Prison Break that this article proposes the scenario depicted in an unlicensed Prison Break knockoff (interview with one of the writers).

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There are currently 3 Comments for Michael Scofield to come to China.

Comments on Michael Scofield to come to China

I read the news in newspaper and was pretty surprised. It's good to have something of Wentworth Miller after "prison break" has been and will be quiet for a while. Since the news appears in a newspaper, i didn't doubt about it at all. I even started to plan for it. But when i went on a forum, i was surprised to find went fans are so mature in dealing with this---they express doubt about it. I as at a maze right now.


How will it be adapted? Easy, take the whole prison break scenario and place it eighty years in the past, make all the bad guys foreign imperialists and put in some mush about patriotism. Now where's my writers fee?

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