LOS ANGELES — Lucy Liu is stepping away from her "Kill Bill" assassinations and "Charlie's Angels" booty-dancing to reignite the Charlie Chan franchise, regardless of the fact that every other actor who's played the globe-trotting detective was a guy.
"[I'm going to be playing] Charlie Chan's granddaughter, who's also named Charlie," Liu explained recently, sitting comfortably in Los Angeles' Four Seasons Hotel. "So she's going to be the next Charlie Chan."
A variety of actors played Chan back in the day in films like 1937's "Charlie Chan at Monte Carlo" and 1940's "Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise." Created by Ohio author Earl Derr Biggers — but familiar to most of today's youth only as a name dropped in the Beastie Boys' "Brass Monkey" — Chan was a detective who always found himself solving murder cases in exotic places despite the bumbling efforts of a son (or two) who would comically interfere while trying to help.
Liu has enlisted "X2: X-Men United" screenwriters Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris to help her reinvent Charlie Chan for the 21st century. Though they're all excited about "Charlie Chan" and relatively far along in the script-writing process, Harris (who is currently directing Sigourney Weaver in a movie that he also wrote), Dougherty and Liu have been busy with other projects, and a 20th Century Fox spokesperson stressed that the Charlie Chan film is still in the early stages of development.
"When we get moments together we try to powwow and mind-meld," Liu said. "We're sort of just figuring out what's going to happen and how it's going to go about. We've been having a really good time working together. [But] you know, [we're doing] something that's original but not original, so it's a very delicate balance."
Delicate, yes, but Liu isn't trying to reinvent the wheel. As one third of "Charlie's Angels," Liu is no stranger to popcorn flicks, and Harris and Dougherty's work on "X2" was hailed for its balance of intelligence and action.
"I'm sure it's going to be a commercial film," Liu said. "I don't think it's going to be something that's an alternative version of Charlie Chan. I'd like to bring a dark edge to it, if that's possible, but we have to see. I just want people to enjoy and appreciate it."