Netflix denies reports of Midnight in Peking murder mystery show (updated)
The book's author was quoted by Chinese news saying Rogue One star Jiang Wen would play the lead
Update: Netflix has denied the report from The Paper, saying they have not been in talks to produce Midnight in Peking.
"This is the first we have heard of the project," a company spokesperson said. "Netflix has not been in discussions with Paul French nor Jiang Wen to commission the making of Midnight in Peking."
The only confirmed Chinese-language originals Netflix is producing this year are Nowhere Man (previously titled Bardo), Triad Princess and Ghost Bride.
Original story: On the morning of January 8, 1937, police in Beijing found the mutilated body of a 19-year-old British woman, the privileged daughter of a former British consul.
To this day, the ghastly murder of Pamela Werner remains an unsolved crime. But British writer Paul French turned it into a best-selling book titled Midnight in Peking in 2011, for which French won an Edgar Award. The story is now being turned into a Netflix show, French said in a recent interview with The Paper, a state-owned media outlet in Shanghai.
French didn’t reveal any specifics regarding timeframe for release or the show's length, but he did say the show will star popular Chinese actor Jiang Wen, perhaps best known to Western audiences as Baze Malbus in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. He will play the show’s lead detective.
Midnight in Peking will be the first Netflix original series set in mainland China. The company announced its first Chinese language original back in 2017. The show, titled Bardo, is an eight-episode jailbreak thriller set in Taiwan.
Werner’s murder made headlines around the world at the time, owing to its especially gruesome nature. All the blood had been drained from her body. Her heart was missing, as well, ripped out through her broken rib cage. The incident sent shock waves through the expatriate community in Beijing, known as Peking at the time.
"Regarding the TV show version of Midnight in Peking, I hope it emphasizes the aspects of crime-solving and deduction, as opposed to the brutality and violence of the case,” French said. “It could be like a Sherlock Holmes story, but in China."
Though the show will be in English, Chinese audiences seem excited about Jiang’s casting. Jiang is one of the country’s most famous actor-directors.
Chinese netizens are already gushing with excitement on Weibo. As one popular Weibo comment put it, "This is badass!"
Many are pleased by the casting because of Jiang’s history of bringing Old China alive on the big screen. Jiang Wen's Beiyang trilogy depicting pre-communist China was a critical and commercial success.
Fans also think Jiang is a good ambassador of Chinese culture because he’s helped introduce foreigners to profane Chinese slang.
Jiang is known for his signature catchphrase “tamade.” It literally translates to "his mother's," but it’s essentially the same as Samuel L Jackson's "motherf-----r.” During the shoot of Rogue One, Jiang famously told Riz Ahmed that the meaning of "The Force" in Chinese is "tamade."
In response, a Weibo user commented, "[This news] is a tamade pleasant surprise!"
While Netflix is not officially available in China, many of the platform’s original series have built up a fanbase in the country after getting distributed by other companies. Baidu’s iQiyi became Netflix’s official partner in China in 2017, but iQiyi CEO Tim Gong Yu said this year that the partnership ended after multiple Netflix shows couldn’t get past China’s censors.
In the meantime, Netflix has been cranking up the amount of Chinese content on its own platform, acquiring the rights to 49 movies or shows over the past four years.