BEIJING (Hollywood Reporter) - Jay Chou upstaged his "Green Hornet" co-star Seth Rogen on the first leg of their Asian tour to promote the film, in which the Taiwanese pop star plays the sidekick role once essayed by Bruce Lee.
The 3D film, which topped the North American charts during the weekend, opens in China on February 6, becoming the first Hollywood movie to premiere during the busy Lunar New Year holiday.
Columbia Pictures hopes to capitalize on Chou's popularity as a singer in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan (he told Rogen he was the "Chinese Usher") and leverage promotional sponsorship from the Coca-Cola Co.'s green-bottled brand Sprite.
"We have huge expectations for this film," Li Chow of Columbia's Beijing office said at a press event on Monday, noting that the state-run monopoly China Film Group will release "Green Hornet" on more than half of the nation's 5,690 screens.
Over 100 Chinese reporters and dozens of Chou fans hoisting smartphone cameras were captivated by the slight, mop-haired singer as he fielded questions in Mandarin seated in front of a giant backdrop in which his masked visage featured more prominently than that of leading man Rogen.
Chou, who stars as Kato and also sings the soundtrack's theme song, said working in Hollywood where he's not often recognized and chased by paparazzi as he is in the East provided him great freedom: "This project felt very good. I had room to be creative. Since my English is not that good, this film was not a formal entry into Hollywood. We'll have to see what develops there for me."
Asked why he'd cast Chou, French director Michel Gondry, ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Be Kind, Rewind") said: "We didn't really know Jay was such a star when we started looking at this movie. But when we saw his films, we saw he was cool and natural."
Rogen, like Gondry, sat beside Chou looking tired and nonplussed through the 30-minute question and answer session conducted through an interpreter. Both men politely repeated the Mandarin greeting "ni hao" for the press and Rogen, when asked to sing one of Chou's songs, livened up and cracked wise:
"Just as I would not attempt to paint my own version of the Mona Lisa I would not attempt to sing one of Jay Chou's songs," Rogen said, adding later that his co-star was "much better than Usher."
"I don't own any Usher albums but now I own every Jay Chou album," Rogen said, whereupon Gondry queried: "Did you pay for them?"
Rogen: "No. I should say that. I didn't pay for them. Jay gave them to me."
Gondry: "Jay took us away many times to his car with his bodyguard and forced us to listen to his music very loud and beat us up if we didn't like it."
Columbia's Chow, afterwards: "See, they get along so well."
Next stop for the promo tour: South Korea, followed by Japan and Taiwan.