‘Crouching Tiger’ sequel to begin production in May

Yes, you read that headline right: more than 12 years after its release in the U.S. (where it won the Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film), “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is getting a sequel. And no, Ang Lee is not involved.

The Weinstein Company is moving ahead with a follow-up to the blockbuster martial arts film, setting a May start date for production in Asia. The studio is reportedly in talks with veteran Hong Kong director Ronny Yu (“Freddy vs. Jason,” “Jet Li’s Fearless”) to helm from a script by John Fusco (“Hidalgo,” “The Forbidden Kingdom”) for a budget of $20 million.

The sequel is based on “Silver Vase, Iron Knight,” the fifth and final book in Chinese author Wang Du Lu’s “Crane-Iron” series (“Crouching Tiger” was an adaptation of the fourth novel). According to Deadline, which broke the story, Fusco is a huge fan of the “wuxia” (translated as “martial hero”) genre of Chinese fiction that Du Lu’s series is a part of.

The as-yet untitled film will, like the first movie, revolve around female warrior Yu Shu Lien, the character played by Michelle Yeoh the last time around. There is no word yet on which members of the original cast will return, as TWC is waiting until Yu’s deal is officially signed before moving ahead with casting.

“This introduces a new generation of star-crossed lovers, and a new series of antagonists in a battle of good and evil,” Fusco told Deadline. “It has a ‘Knights Errant’ quality. There is an alternate universe in the books, a martial forest that exists alongside the real world, full of wandering sword fighters, medicine men, defrocked priests, poets, sorcerers and Shaolin renegades. It”s so vast and rich, and I found characters from the second and third books in the series to create a most interesting stew while being as true to the source material as I could be.”

Fusco also told the site that he expects fight choreographer Wo Ping Yuen, the man responsible for the stunning high-wire action sequences in the first film, to return.

The Weinsteins reportedly beat out “Crouching Tiger” distributor Sony for the rights to the book series several years back, a result of the Du Lu family’s unhappiness over being cut out of the majority of the first movie’s profits (it grossed over $200 million worldwide on a budget of only $17 million).

So how do you feel about the project? Are you optimistic, or are you against the idea of a sequel being made without Ang Lee? Sound off in the comments.