A number of years ago I came across the French translation of a Chinese novel by Wang Shuo. The story affected me so deeply, that I was immediately hell-bent on obtaining the film rights. The French publishers were, however, not keen to put us in touch with the author. Months later we discovered the reason: the French version of the novel was a pirated edition and the publishers were justifiably nervous that our interest would rouse Wang Shuoís attention.
Co-author, Marie Noelle, and I tracked down Wang Shuo in China. We had no hope of convincing Wang about our concept for a film without taking a trip to Beijing. So, off we went. By this stage we had already written two drafts of the screenplay and had discovered that the story worked neither in a German nor any other European setting. Taking everything into consideration, we finally decided to relocate the story to New York. It seemed to be tailor-made for this city. Despite that, the tailors demanded 14 fittings till the cut was perfect.
By this stage the material had been on a round-the-world trip, from the Orient to the Occident, from Beijing via Munich to the South Bronx. The settings, the language and the characters changed, but fundamentally and emotionally the story remained the same. Despite its journey across two thirds of the globe, the story forfeited none of its emotional coherence. Perhaps the love story of Wu Di and Fang Fang or Jack and Claire is truly a universal story - one of those stories that can take place anywhere, in this or a similar form, transcending cultural and social constraints.