Amblin Entertainment is planning to make a movie about the event known as “Chopstick Diplomacy.”
In 1972, President Richard Nixon took part in a publicly broadcast dinner in Beijing as a first step toward easing tensions between the two superpowers and opening up a relationship that could reshape the world.
He was seated beside Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and other leaders of the nation’s Communist Party, awkwardly using unfamiliar utensils to consume foods that to Nixon (and most of middle America at the time) seemed bizarre and exotic. The potential for a misstep or mishap was not just high, it was … likely.
That’s a setting for both comedy and drama, and the studio plans to bring both flavors to the screen with The Great Banquet, EW has learned exclusively. The strange-but-true story seems especially timely given that President Donald Trump is currently engaging in high stakes diplomacy with North Korea in Singapore.
As Amblin’s official synopsis describes The Great Banquet: “With stakes high, ordinary people from both countries find a way to work together and discover that the common language of food ultimately brings them and the world to the same table.”
The original script is being written by Neville Kiser and Arvin Chen, American writers who each have longstanding ties to China.
Kiser is the writer-director of the documentary short Women of China, and he lived for two years in the country’s Shandong Province while teaching English at Linyi Teachers University. Chen is a Chinese-American based in Taipei, Taiwan, who wrote and directed the films Au Revoir Taipei and Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
The Great Banquet will be produced by Jeff Sharp, whose credits include the new Alden Ehrenreich war drama The Yellow Birds, and the films Boys Don’t Cry, You Can Count on Me, and Nicholas Nickleby as well as the TV series Outlander. His Sharp Independent pictures specializes in developing entertainment for U.S. and Chinese audiences, and some of his projects for China include the hit TV show Wonderful Life and the basketball film My Other Home.
He is also producing the film Stride, described as a love story about a young man who tries to impress the woman of his dreams by joining a dance troupe made up of provincial factory workers. That film is also the current collaboration by Chen and Kiser. (Chen is repped by CAA and Morris Yorn, while Neville’s representatives are UTA and Peter Dealbert of Pacific View Management.)
Since the script is just now being written, no director has been selected and no release date was specified for The Great Banquet.