It’s no secret that Hollywood panders to China in order for some films to be successful in the overseas market.
The extent of the role that China plays in the production of Hollywood movies, however, is probably bigger than you thought. Anything from casting to product placement and even entire plot lines have been changed in movies to appease China.
The first that comes to mind is the remake of “Red Dawn.” It was a remake of a famous movie portraying the invasion of America by communist Russia. It might follow that a remake would replace Communist Russia with its obvious successor, Communist China, and it did … at first.
The change came after MGM became concerned the enemy being China could get the film banned in the Chinese market.
To appease China, MGM digitally erased all Chinese symbols and flags from the film, changed dialogue and altered film, according to the LA Times. Although the changes were made, MGM confirmed there were no discussions about the changes with China, the outlet reported.
Probably the most recent plot change of a Hollywood movie made specifically to appease China is the complete removal of the fact that Freddie Mercury had relationships with men in the “Bohemian Rhapsody” biopic.
The film showed in China cut out the scene where Mercury tells his fiancée he is not straight and the scene that shows his lover Jim Hutton, according to the New York Times.
Remember the “Karate Kid” remake starring Jaden Smith? The remake was actually filmed in China despite the fact that it’s about Japanese martial art. The Chinese name for the film is even “Kung Fu Dream.”
To be able to film in China, the production had to pay attention to the Chinese censors which required scenes involving bullying and kissing be cut for the Chinese version.
The biggest plot change of all is probably “Looper,” a sci-fi movie revolving around contract killers called Loopers who kill victims who are sent back through time. The film was originally set in a futuristic Paris, but the finished product was not Paris.
Endgame Entertainment couldn’t afford to film in Paris, but after negotiating a deal with Chinese company DMG, filming in Shanghai was affordable. For the production deal to go through, one third of the movie was required to be filmed in China.
The location setting was enough for the movie to be officially released in China.
The casting for “Iron Man 3” was also changed up in order to push success in the overseas market. “Iron Man 3” featured the comic book villain The Mandarin, which isn’t the best look for the Chinese market. The Mandarin ended up being played by Ben Kingsley, a white actor, in order to pass the Chinese sensors, Screen Rant reported.
Product placement of Chinese brands is another way Hollywood has learned to pander to China and the overseas market.
“Iron Man 3” includes an extra four minutes of film for product placement and additional scenes with Chinese actors, including Fan Bingbing. One of the scenes shows Bingbing as a doctor’s assistant helping treat Tony Stark with Chinese medicine.
The Chinese version of the action film, which was released in 2013, opened with a product placement of the milk drink Gu Li Duo manufactured by Yili, according to the New York Times. The product placement of the milk drink came as the country was working to quell the fears of citizens after Yili recalled baby formula due to hints of mercury. Other product placements included electronics company TCL, mention of Zoomlion and shot of Chinese school children.
In “Captain America: Civil War” the characters seem to have switched phone brands from LG to a brand called Vivo. If you don’t know what that is, it’s because Vivo phones aren’t sold in the U.S. In fact, no Vivo products are sold in the states. (RELATED: Ted Cruz Tells Tucker Carlson: Hollywood Is ‘Fully Complicit’ In Chinese Censorship)
“Independence Day: Resurgence” also used a brand of technology not available in the U.S. Liam Hemsworth’s character uses QQ, an instant-messaging service used in China, to contact his girlfriend back on Earth. Moon Milk, a Chinese drink, also made a blatant appearance in the film that reportedly left a bad tasted in viewers mouths.
“Transformers: Age Of Extinction” had room for placement of Chinese products. In the film you’ll find Vitasoy and Chinese Red Bull. Yes, it is different than American Red Bull. A portion of the movie is also filmed in Hong Kong after China Movie Channel and Jiaflix became involved in production.
It doesn’t end there, the Chinese government is portrayed in a good light throughout the movie while the American government is perceived as a little ridiculous.
“To suggest Michael Bay has made an un-American film is ludicrous,” a Paramount spokesperson said in a statement to Variety in 2014. “This movie artfully portrays a cross section of people, from different cultures and different nationalities, in diverse and thoughtful ways. The movie’s international resonance only reinforces the fact that this story is truly meant for a global audience and not driven by any country.”
Disney has participated in this trend specifically with “Zootopia.” In the original movie, the news anchor is played by a moose, but in the Chinese adaptation, which is titled “Crazy Animal City, the newscaster is a panda. The main characters of the movie were chosen to be a rabbit and a fox. Both animals are well known in Chinese culture. The rabbit is a part of the Chinese zodiac and is known to bring luck. The fox has more of an evil vibe in Chinese culture.
“Zootopia” was allowed to stay in theaters for an extra two weeks after the original 30 days and brought in $662.8 million in the overseas market, according to Deadline.
Ever wonder why “Now You See Me” was given a sequel despite only earning $117 million at the U.S. box office? The movie grossed $234 million overseas. Lionsgate landed a $1.5 billion production deal with Chinese company Hunan TV that included “Now You See Me 2.”
The sequel added Taiwanese star Jay Chou and filmed parts of the movie in the Chinese region of Macau. Daniel Radcliffe was also added to the movie, another worldwide movie star. “Now You See Me 2” director Jon Chu denied Chou was hired to pander to China.
“We did want to go global, and maybe there was some marketing idea in that as well, but at least on my part, it wasn’t a conscious effort,” Chu told Vulture. “It wasn’t like we said, ‘oh, we have to have Jay Chou because then that gets this or that.’ We knew the movie did well in China last time, but I wouldn’t say we were like, ‘where in China could we shoot this?’ Although I’m sure Lionsgate was happy!”
“Now You See Me 2” grossed $97 million in China, according to a report published by The Wrap.
If you’re left wondering if all these small changes or rather large changes actually made a difference, “Deadpool” might give you some answers. “Deadpool,” which was released in 2016, was far too R-rated for the Chinese censors. There was reportedly no way to cut the graphic language, violence and nudity without causing major plot holes in the film, according to Vanity Fair. Instead, the film was outright banned in China and was never released.
So if you’re ever wondering if Hollywood is pandering to China, the answer is most likely yes.