Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh, Ken Watanabe and Gong Li and are to star in the long-gestating Memoirs Of AGeisha adaptation, which RobMarshall will direct and Columbia Pictures is co-financing with DreamWorks andSpyglass Entertainment.
Productionis set to begin in Los Angeles and Japan in September. Spyglass, which has afirst-look,non-exclusive deal with Columbia, holds all international rights and it isunderstood CTFDI will distribute in select markets. Columbia will market anddistribute domestically.
Based onArthur Golden's bestseller, the story follows the career of Sayuri, anorphan geisha trainee played by Zhang who falls in love with Watanabe'shigh-powered executive.
Yeoh willplay an experienced geisha and mentor to Zhang's character, reuniting theAsian duo after they last appeared together in Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger,Hidden Dragon.
Gong lines upas Sayuri's rival. Zhang and Gong star opposite each other in WongKar-Wai's upcoming 2046.
Ron Bass,Akiva Goldsman and Robin Swicord wrote the screenplay and Doug Wick, LucyFisher and Steven Spielberg, who was originally attached to direct, will serveas producers.
The projectmarks Marshall's first assignment in the director's chair since themulti-Oscar winning musical Chicago in 2002.
"Wecould not be more excited about the extraordinary cast that we have inplace," Marshall said in a statement. "We are adapting a belovedpiece of literature that has become a worldwide sensation, which made itimportant for me to assemble a cast with a prestigious internationalprofile."
"Weare thrilled to be using this beautiful piece of literature as an opportunityto bring together some of the greatest actors in the world, and certainly themost distinguished team of Asia actors ever assembled for an Americanmovie," Wick and Fisher added.
"Fromthe time I first read Arthur Golden's novel, I wanted to see this as afilm," Spielberg said, adding there was "no-one better than RobMarshall" to bring the story to the big screen.