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Netflix Denies “Midnight in Peking” Adaptation Starring Jiang Wen

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Update: Seems someone jumped the gun and got us all excited without due cause. Netflix has now denied reports that it will turn Paul French‘s true crime novel Midnight in Peking into its first-ever China-set original series, or that it has tapped legendary Chinese actor-director Jiang Wen to star. Hopefully that’s in the works though — we’d watch it. 

In the opening of Jiang Wen’s comedy action film Hidden Man, set in 1930s Beijing, police chief Zhu Qianlong tells surgeon Li Tianran of a disturbing case involving the murder of schoolgirl Pamela Warner, the British ambassador’s daughter. The case, which actually happened at the time, was subsequently lost to the current of history, forever left unsolved. Now, Netflix is turning a fictional crime novel based on the murder, Midnight in Peking, into a full-blown series starring none other than Jiang Wen as the lead detective.

At a time when Netflix is streaming more and more Chinese movies and TV shows, including sci-fi blockbuster Wandering Earth which was put up just last week, Midnight In Peking will be the streaming service’s first original series set in Mainland China — casting a Chinese actor-director as distinguished as Jiang Wen seems fitting for the occasion.

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The decision makes even more sense given that Jiang has a working relationship with Paul French, the author of Midnight of Peking, who spoke about grabbing meals with Jiang in a recent interview with Chinese news outlet The Paper. Jiang originally approached French about using details from the novel for his 2018 film and China’s pick for the Oscars’ foreign language category Hidden Man (the source of the opening scene mentioned above, and the cinematic cover image up top).

Jiang, who French said has been practicing English three hours everyday to prepare for his role in the show, isn’t a newcomer to English language film and TV. Though far from well-known outside of China, many Western viewers may recognize him as the heroic soldier Baze Malbus who sacrificed himself for the resistance in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, his English language film debut.

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Hidden Man was the third part of Jiang’s “Bullets” trilogy, which started with the action-packed Let the Bullets Fly and was followed by Gone With the Bullets. But he’s long been renowned for his work both behind and in front of the camera in China. He starred in Red Sorghum, Zhang Yimou’s debut film and an adaptation of the Mo Yan novel, and helmed iconic pieces of Chinese cinema with In the Heat of the Sun and the controversial Devils on the Doorstep.

In China, besides being known for his movies, Jiang is also famous as a purveyor of the Chinese slang term tamade, literally his mom’s, but which is probably better translated as “fucking” (as in that’s fucking crazy, or it’s fucking hot outside). It’s not surprising then that many Weibo users have been lacing their comments about the news with the term — or its abbreviation, TMD — to express their approval.

“Netflix is really TMD great,” one said, and another, “Can something this awesome tamade be real?” From us at RADII: yes, it tamade can be.

Andrew Little
    Andrew is a writer from Dallas, Texas, and currently based in Beijing as a RADII contributor. Contact him at [email protected]

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