Empires of the Deep

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Empires of the Deep
Directed byMichael French
Written byRandall Frakes
StarringOlga Kurylenko
CountryUnited States
BudgetUS$130 million

Empires of the Deep is an unreleased 3D action-adventure fantasy film conceived by Jon Jiang, directed by Michael French, written by Randall Frakes and starring Olga Kurylenko. It was described by the production team as "an unlikely love story between a young human and a mermaid... set in a mythical world," against the backdrop of a war among the titular 'empires of the deep' such as the crabs.[1] It is reported to be a major US-Chinese co-production, its production budget reaching over $130 million.[2][3] The film was last reported as being in post-production and seeking worldwide distribution.

In 2010, the film's English working title was Mermaid Island USA Vs The Plesiosaurs.[4] In late 2012, a 3D preview trailer was released to critics, who responded with largely negative reviews.[3][5][6] In December 2014 the movie was announced as complete and due for release in China in December 2015 after almost 5 years of post-production, mostly coming from the visual effects, which had increased the budget to well over USD$140 million.[5] As of January 2019, the film remains unreleased, going through 4 directors, 10 scriptwriters and with many of the actors and production and technical crews still unpaid.[7][8]


Chinese oligarch Jon Jiang's original brainchild, in 2006, was to make a Greek mythical aqua-adventure epic based on Poseidon but with a geo-political patriotic twist featuring the South China Sea (as a Chinese territory).[8] The story is centered on creatures fighting for power in the deep and unknown 80% of Earth's water also known as Oceans.[9] Mermaids reign as the protectors of the Oceans since the creation of Earth but peace is ruined by betrayal and dark spirits of the deeps: the Reptils.


  • Olga Kurylenko as the Mermaid Queen
  • Shi Yanfei (Jon Jiang's girlfriend) as Aka
  • Steve Polites as Atlas
  • Maxx Maulion as Trajin
  • Aaron Shang as Adjutant Stavros
  • Jae Choe as Jennifer Choe
  • Sam Voutas as Papos
  • Pierre Bourdaud as Gava
  • Jean-Michel Casanova as The Pirate Captain
  • Boyde Thomas Skinner as Pirate #2
  • Andre Queme as Pirate #3
  • Alec Su as a Mermen Kingdom Soldier
  • Liang Yanfei as a Mermaid
  • Pierre Reno as "The One Eyed Ogre"
  • William Shriver as Merchant
  • Richard Alan Hall as Angry Villager
  • Willy Bonaparte as Greek Soldier
  • Erika Larrisa as Zoe


The film is the vanity project of realtor billionaire Jon Jiang (Jiang Hongyu), who financed part of the film's budget.[10][11] The screenplay went through 40 drafts and took over four years using a total of ten screenwriters.[12] Initially Monica Bellucci[13] was set to star in the film although she eventually dropped out and Sharon Stone was courted and then replaced with Olga Kurylenko.[14][15][11] Catwoman director, Pitof, was set to direct although he too eventually dropped out, only to be replaced by Michael French and then two more directors.[11][16] The Romanian actress Irena Violette quit the movie halfway through and had to escape the mountainside film set, subsequently her character the mermaid Dada, who is the bodyguard of Aka (played by Jon Jiang's mistress Shi Yanfei) was cut from the film.[17] Tom Archdeacon, who was to play a human, also left shooting of the movie. The movies were planned to be a franchise on the scale of Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, with a trilogy to be made and an accompanying animated series, video games and a theme park in China.[18][19]

Press reception[edit]

Director Michael French hosted a press reception and a preview of the trailer at a studio in Beijing, China, on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 in complete 3D format having journalists wear 3D glasses.[4] On June 9, 2010, over one hundred on-set photos from the film were revealed.[20][21]


  1. ^ "'Empires' has deep Chinese pockets".
  2. ^ "Shi Yanfei «  HKMDB Daily News". hkmdbnews.com.
  3. ^ a b Smith, Graham (Oct 24, 2012). "Billionaire spends $130 million on 'Chinese Avatar' Empires Of The Deep... only for 'woeful' trailer to be savaged by critics". Daily Mail. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  4. ^ a b 4, Steven Mark Posted on March; Am, 2012 1:30. "Gallery at UH getting a 'FAX'".
  5. ^ a b "Empires of the Deep: ecco poster e trailer del kolossal da 130 milioni di dollari". Cine blog.it. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  6. ^ Goldberg, Matt. "Trailer for Empires Of The Deep or "How to Throw Away $130 Million"". IMDB. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  7. ^ Anders, Charlie Jane. "Will We Ever Get To See China's Disastrous Answer To Avatar? [UPDATED]".
  8. ^ a b "Sunk". 24 May 2016.
  9. ^ "Empires Of The Deep: what happened to China's Avatar beater?".
  10. ^ Wong, Edward. "In China, an Attempt at Moviemaking, American Style".
  11. ^ a b c Puchko, Kristy. "Empires Of The Deep Trailer Reveals A Mermaid War Unlike Any Other". Cinemablend. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  12. ^ Landreth, Jonathan. "'Empires' has deep Chinese pockets". Hollywood Reporter. Associated Press. Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  13. ^ "EMPIRES OF THE DEEP - Undead Backbrain". roberthood.net.
  15. ^ "Empires of the Deep, Once Mermaid Island - Undead Backbrain". roberthood.net.
  16. ^ "Empires of the Deep: The New Waterworld or How to Lose $130 Million…". 25 May 2013.
  17. ^ "Irena Violette". IMDb.
  18. ^ "Facebook - Log In or Sign Up". Facebook.
  19. ^ "Designing an Undersea Empire - Undead Backbrain". roberthood.net.
  20. ^ "Empires of the Deep Set Photos - ComingSoon.net". 8 June 2010.
  21. ^ "Empires of the Deep Movie : Teaser Trailer". teaser-trailer.com.

External links[edit]