An epic series on the life of Marco Polo is set to be shot in Malaysia.
IT is not always that Hollywood comes aknocking. But when it does, the knock sure is loud. American film studio The Weinstein Company is setting camp right here in Malaysia, using the Pinewood Studios in Johor Baru to shoot their latest epic series Marco Polo. And guess what? They are looking to cast thousands of people to work as paid background actors.
Well, that simply means that you, your grandmother and her best friend may have the opportunity to be featured in the Netflix original series based on the life and experience of famed adventurer Marco Polo.
There has to be a reason why the producers decided to film the nine-episode series in Malaysia, right?
“There are several reasons. One is this wonderful facility. The opportunity to be the very first production to come into the new Pinewood and have all the access to this incredible space and amazing stages.
“The other thing is that Malaysia is weather friendly and we don’t have to fight elements other than heat,” said show creator and executive producer John Fusco during an exclusive interview with Star2 at the Pinewood Studios last week.
“We scouted the areas here and really loved the people and community. And because the story of Marco Polo is multi-cultural, we feel that shooting in a country that has a multi-cultural background is the right thing and the spirit lends itself to the story that we’re telling.”
For those of you who dozed off in History class and have no idea who Marco Polo is, well, he is one but a renowned 13th century Italian explorer who travelled from Venice to Central Asia. His travels, documented in The Travels Of Marco Polo – which includes his experience in the court of the great Mongol leader Kublai Khan, inspired the likes of Christopher Columbus and many other worldly travellers.
“I have been fascinated with the story of Marco Polo since young. I’m of Italian ancestory, but have always been attracted to Asian culture, history and philosophy. I studied Chinese martial arts as a kid and everything I could about Marco Polo. I had a connection with the Italian kid who loved Asia,” said Fusco.
When Harvey Weinstein approached Fusco with an idea to do a series about Marco Polo’s adventures, it didn’t take long for the latter to jump at the opportunity.
Together with talented screenwriters from hit TV series such as Sons Of Anarchy and Law & Order, Fusco developed the first eight-hours of the show, which starts with Polo’s life in Venice – as a 17-year-old boy who grew up not knowing his traveller father.
Production, which started in China a few years ago, hit a glitch. Weinstein then brought the idea to Netflix. Fast forward three years later and here they are shooting what might just be the biggest series to hit all Netflix territories in 2014.
The writing team is currently done with the show’s first season, which Fusco describes as “a historical and action adventure that follows the journey of Marco Polo”.
“It is very much based on the book that he wrote, although historians are still arguing about its veracity. It will tell the story of what he wrote about and half of what he might have seen. We have the advantage that Marco Polo was an actual person in history and that he was in China for 17 years. That gives us a vast treasure trove of materials and storylines to work on.”
The show’s creator expressed his admiration for his writing team, which he claims includes some of the best writers in TV.
He said: “I wrote the two-hour pilot and I’m involved day to day overseeing the writing of the rest of the episodes. It’s been a really harmonious collaborative process.”
The pilot is scheduled to be directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, who worked on the Oscar-nominated Kon-Tiki. Game Of Thrones director Daniel Minahan is also expected to direct a few episodes.
Although Fusco shared everything he could about the series, he unfortunately wouldn’t let on one vital information about Marco Polo – its cast members. However, he assured that the viewers will not be disappointed by their selection.
“We have a dream cast coming along. Most of the principal cast will be announced in the next few weeks.”
TIME TO SHINE
This is your chance to be part of the biggest TV show to be filmed in Malaysia. Don’t fret if you do not have any acting experience – just show up and be yourself at the audition which will be held in Horizon Hill in Nusajaya, Johor Baru every Saturday of March.
The casting crew is looking for people to play the roles of period villagers, soldiers, farmers, warriors, horse riders and more.
They also need people within the age of 40 to 90 years old as well as muscular men and character faces.
There are over 8,000 background roles to be filled and 50 speaking roles up for grabs. Performers and musicians are also welcomed to give the auditions a try.
Where: Kulatree International Sdn Bhd, Horizon Hill, 38A Jalan Hijauan 4, Horizon Hills shop houses, Nusa Jaya, 79100, Johor Baru, Johor.
When: Every Saturday of March (1, 8, 15, 22 and 29)
Time: 12 – 6pm
Contact casting directors: Jorene 016-232 1270 or Jessica 012-206 1994/07-5601 837