Donnie Yen Leads US ‘Kung Fu’ Film Adaptation For Universal

Big-screen adaptations are a dozen a dime nowadays, and Universal Pictures is looking to tap into a martial arts classic for their next project. The company has announced a modern film adaptation of 1970s series Kung Fu, with Hong Kong veteran Donnie Yen lined up to star.

Donnie Yen Kung Fu Film Adaptation Universal

As reported by Deadline, David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Hobbs & Shaw) is in talks to direct for Universal. Said the filmmaker:

“Donnie Yen is both an immensely talented actor and an action film legend, and it is a privilege to have a true martial arts master leading this global film,” said the filmmaker. “With Donnie in place as our leading man, it will be a thrill to collaborate with him, our creative partners, and Universal in reimagining this beloved story for the big screen.”

Steven Chin (War Dogs) has penned the script for the new film, which will put a new spin on the show. Ed Spielman, creator of the original series, serves as executive producer on the project. Not much else is known about it, including story and a release window.

Running between 1972 and 1975, Kung Fu starred David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine, a master martial artist who fled China after his master was killed. He wandered the Old West helping the downtrodden and weathering rampant racism while eluding assassins trying to kill him.

At the time, Carradine’s casting as a biracial character drew controversy, with Bruce Lee’s widow claiming the idea came from martial arts legend, only to be told that an American audience was not ready for an Asian lead. The producers, however, disputed it, saying they had consulted Lee before going with Carradine.

The actor would later reprise the role in a several TV movies and in Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, a sequel series set in the modern day. CW reimagined the cult classic in 2021, starring Olivia Liang as a young martial artist living in San Francisco.

Yen, meanwhile, is one of the most respected action stars in the industry. Apart from pioneering the depiction of mixed martial arts moves in films like SPL / Kill Zone and Flashpoint, the Ip Man star also set a new standard for on-screen kung fu fighting, making him an undeniably apt pick for a Kung Fu reboot. Yen was last seen in John Wick: Chapter 4, after starring in and directing Sakra, an adaptation of the classic Chinese novel Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils.