Hong Kong-superstar, Jackie Chan has set up a gladiatorial contest to produce an epic film based on classic Chinese tract The Art Of War.

Chan announced yesterday (May 28) that he will star in a mega-budget adaptation of the philosophical works by Sun Tzu for Golden Harvest. Earlier this month director Gordon Chan, the acclaimed director who heads production for Emperor Multimedia Group (EMG), said that he is readying a project on the same Sun Tzu material.

Speaking at a celebratory dinner for Golden Harvest's Accidental Spy, Jackie Chan said he will be working on two films for GH; The Art Of War and Untitled Jackie Chan Action Adventure , a second sequel to Operation Condor, a film where Jackie Chan took directing and writing credits.

A GH spokesman said that the expected budget for Art Of War is some (HK$600m), which would be approximately double the scale of any film to come out of Hong Kong. That credit currently goes to The Highbinders, a $30m fantasy martial arts picture currently being prepared by EMG, in which Jackie Chan will star and Gordon Chan and Sammo Hung take directing credits. Condor 3 is also set at a mega HK$300m.

GH said that it currently sees Jackie Chan starring and taking an executive producer role in both films and that Art Of War will be shot in Mandarin, though both details are subject to contract and may change. The Condor sequel will be shot in English.

The Art Of War was written some 2,000 years ago by a soldier who lost his legs but was still one of the most feared warriors of his age. Adaptation is not likely to be straightforward as the book, which is still in print, is a series of philosophical essays rather than a piece of narrative text. At least one of the projects is likely to focus on the man himself and how he came to write his treatise.

"This book could be the basis for many movies. Like The Bible there are many stories and elements to be drawn from it. It has been Gordon [Chan]'s dream for many years to adapt this for the big screen," said Elliot Tong, head of distribution and international affairs at EMG. "Although we know Jackie Chan very well we have never said that he is attached to anything of our's other than The Highbinders."

Christian Duguay, last year directed a film entitled The Art Of War for Franchise Pictures and Morgan Creek. Starring Wesley Snipes, it made reference to the Sun Tzu book, but was not based on it.

Accidental Spy which has grossed close to $13m across seven territories in Asia. China's box office has pulled in the highest tally of $4.3m and counting, with Spy still the highest grosser this year in Hong Kong with $3.8m. US and Japanese releases are scheduled for the latter part of this year.

Patrick Frater in London also contributed to this article