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Yul Thaid

Hong Kong legend Chow Yun-Fat will play the King of Siam

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Fresh off the success of the modern-day fairy tale “Ever After,” director Andy Tennant is set to bring another storybook romance to the big screen next year: “Anna and the King” (Twentieth Century Fox), starring Hong Kong film legend Chow Yun-Fat as the King of Siam. Just don’t call it a “The King and I” remake, says Tennant. (The 1956 musical about an unlikely romance between Siam’s ruler and a British governess won five Oscars, including a Best Actor award for Yul Brynner.) “I think American audiences’ only exposure to the history of Siam is a frivolous musical that took some gross liberties with the factual elements,” Tennant told EW Online from Thailand, where he’s doing research for the film. “This non-musical movie is a serious version of the story that’s much better and quite detailed.”

The choice to cast Chow, 43, in Brynner’s role is a bold one, considering the actor has made a name for himself by playing noble but violent double-barreled gunslingers in films like “The Killer,” “Hard Boiled,” and “The Replacement Killers.” But Tennant is convinced that the actor is perfect for the part: “I never thought of him as a shoot ’em up kind of guy. I feel that he has tremendous screen presence, loads of talent, and a charisma that hasn’t been tapped yet for the American market.” If Chow does as well in “King” as Barrymore did in “Ever After” (which has grossed $40.7 million in four weeks) Tennant may look like a genius. “A lot of people were surprised by how strong Drew Barrymore’s performance was,” says the director. “Chow will be similar. I’m looking forward to seeing him have an opportunity to kick ass — this time in an acting sort of way.”