Merchant of Shanghai: Taylor Hackford's Biopic of Opium Dealer Silas Hardoon

Oct 19, 2008–Taylor Hackford will direct “Merchant of Shanghai,” an English-language biopicure about opium dealer and property magnate Silas Hardoon, who transformed Shanghai in the 19th century.
The film will shoot in fall 2009 in and around Shanghai.

Hardoon was a Baghdad Jew who immigrated to Shanghai, became a kingpin in the opium trade, and helped transform Shanghai from an obscure backwater to a major international city.

Hackford, whose biopic “Ray” was an Oscar-winner, will collaborate with actress-writer Luo Yan of China¬ís Silver Dream Prods. to produce the pic. Melvin Mar, producer of “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” will executive produce. Scribe Timothy J. Sexton (“Children of Men”) will rewrite.

The project has attracted the interest of Shanghai Film Group and China Film Group. The aim is to have as much Chinese input in the production as possible, to effectively make it a Chinese production.

“We will collaborate with a great amount of Chinese. It¬ís a Chinese film out of Shanghai with Luo Yan¬ís company,” said Hackford, who has been a scholar of Chinese history since his days studying international relations. “This story is about a historic moment when Europe and China were dancing together, with Europe trying to impose its will. I thought it was a very interesting story on an epic scale,” he said.

Yan said the deal with Hackford was an effort for his company to make “mainstream movies” that are produced in China. “We approached Taylor Hackford with a normal Hollywood script, with the story taking place in China,” said Yan, whose credits as a thesp include “Pavilion of Women” for Universal.