With a keen eye on international box office, Paramount Pictures is diversifying its cast for “Transformers 4” by adding one of Asia’s top movie stars Han Geng to the cast.
He joins Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Sophia Myles and another Chinese actor, Li Bingbing, for the film that is set to be released in less than a year.
Director Michael Bay shared few words about the casting in a news release from Paramount, saying that Geng has been a “sensation in China, and we are happy to have him in our movie.”
Geng, 29, who is listed as Geng Han on Internet Movie Database, most recently appeared in the Chinese drama “So Young.” His other screen projects in China also include “My Kingdom” and “Beginning of the Great Revival.”
Geng’s popularity, however, stems more from his music than his acting. He’s a star in the Chinese mandopop movement, popular songs performed in Mandarin Chinese. He made his debut in 2005 as part of the South Korean boy band Super Junior, signing a 13-year contract that he successfully had thrown out as being too restrictive.
Geng returned to China soon after, and continued to build on his career, which includes both the music stage and the big screen.
The singer and actor’s presence in “Transformers 4” makes it clear that Paramount is looking to have the film released in China next year. The Chinese government is very particular about which western films it allows in its theaters, and typically only lets in a handful a year. Adding Chinese actors to the cast — as “Iron Man 3” did in extra scenes shown exclusively in Asia — help to not only get the film shown in countries like China, but also boost the popularity of the film there once it opens.
Paramount has already struck a deal with China Movie Channel and Jiaflix Enterprises that will allow “Transformers 4” to film scenes in China. The sides are expecting to get “Transformers 4” released in China around June 27, 2014, and are working to select filming sites within China.
It’s the first time the China Movie Channel has worked with a western studio in the production of a major motion picture.
“So Young,” according to Paramount, grossed more than $115 million since its release last May.
The most recent installment in the franchise, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” earned $1.1 billion worldwide. It joined other Transformers films in getting Chinese releases, and have all been extremely popular with audiences there with “Dark of the Moon” grossing $165 million there.