Business / Technology

After that IPO, is Jack Ma heading for the silver screen?

By RAYMOND ZHOU ( Updated: 2014-09-26 21:46

You've just had the biggest IPO in history. How do you follow up that kind of feat?

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Jack Ma (or Ma Yun), founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, which went public on the New York Stock Exchange raising $21.8 billion, is going to have his life turned into a movie.

Or it could be that someone else is trying to cash in on his worldwide fame by making a biopic about him.

Janet Yang, a Chinese-American film producer in Hollywood, is reportedly leading the project. Yang, who has been involved in several China-US film collaborations, did not respond to China Daily's request for verification.

After that IPO, is Jack Ma heading for the silver screen?

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After that IPO, is Jack Ma heading for the silver screen?

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Lora Chen, a representative of US film company Miramax, said there is a 50-50 chance it could be true. "Ma is all over the news and Hollywood never fails to seize opportunities like that, and Chinese audiences would probably be curious to see it," she said. But she doubts that Ma or Alibaba is behind the project.

Alibaba's public relations team said it had no idea about the project when contacted by China Daily on Friday.

Chen said that unless the film uses sources of information exclusive to Ma, Hollywood does not need the authorization of the person portrayed on screen. As a public figure, Ma is not in a position to retain copyright on what he said or did in public, she said.

Hollywood has made several biopics on high-tech leaders, including Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999), about the rivalry between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, and Jobs, a 2013 film based on the life of the Apple founder, that failed miserably at the box office and with the critics.

About the only film of the genre to hit the jackpot is Social Network (2010), an unflattering portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg and the early years of Facebook. The movie was unauthorized by the subject of the story and took great liberty with the facts.

In China, American Dreams in China, also known as Partners, a thinly-veiled biopic on the three founders of New Oriental, an English-language training school, was a blockbuster in 2013.

Given this track record, "Hollywood is very unlikely to make a movie about Jack Ma," said Zhou Tiedong, president of China Film Promotion International for many years before recently taking the helm at Beijing New Film Association Co.

With his extensive experience in Hollywood, Zhou dismissed the Ma speculation as "mere gossip" or a project with little potential to succeed. "If Ma is behind the project, that will turn him into a laughing stock," Zhou added.

Chinese online users have suggested that the new movie, written by Bruce Feirstein and currently titled Alibaba, should be changed to The Horse of Wall Street, a play on Ma's name ("ma", a common surname in Chinese, also means horse) and on the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Wolf of Wall Street.

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