Cleopatra Wong: Southeast Asian Secret Agent Heroine Gets TV Reboot

You probably haven't heard of Cleopatra Wong if you're under 50 years old and didn't grow up in Southeast Asia. Singaporean actress Marrie Lee played the Singaporean Interpol agent in the first Southeast Asian action heroine franchise in three movies made in the late 1970s, and now Variety reports that the character is getting rebooted for television.

Cleopatra Wong: Southeast Asian Secret Agent Heroine Gets TV Reboot
"Cleopatra Wong" poster (Screencap)

Cleopatra Wong was created by the Philippines filmmaker Bobby A. Suarez (aka George Richardson) and featured in three movies – They Call Her Cleopatra Wong, Dynamite Johnson (aka Bionic Boy), and Devil's Angels (aka Mean Business) – produced in the late 1970s by BAS Film Productions. Her name was inspired by the Blaxploitation character Cleopatra Jones, and the movies melded Bruce Lee action and 70s James Bond cool. Marrie Lee (aka Doris Young) starred in all three movies. Movies in the 1970s were weird that way.

Cleopatra Wong is now being revived by London and Los Angeles-based independent studio The Ink Factory, which produced The Night Manager, and has acquired the Cleopatra Wong rights, teaming up with Singapore-based Beach House Pictures to produce the new TV series. Fifth Season will handle international rights sales.

The new Cleopatra Wong series will be updated to the 21st century and co-written by Chinese-American writer Tasha Huo, who had worked on Red Sonja and 2023's Tomb Raider, and Thai-British writer Chris Cornwell (who has written for A Discovery of Witches and Strike Back).

"With its heart and its soul in Southeast Asia, the franchise brings a young female action hero and her companions to the screen in a way that will feel fresh, confident, and authentic," said Simon Cornwell and Stephen Cornwell, co-founders and co-CEOs of The Ink Factory. "We're incredibly proud to be helping give Cleopatra her voice in today's world, creating something that will be true to the roots of the franchise, retaining both its sheer joy and its sense of social mission, but at the same time feeling utterly contemporary and hugely entertaining."

"We're confident that our unique blend of East meets West creativity and perspective will bring something truly innovative to Asian and international television audiences," said BHP co-founders Donovan Chan and Jocelyn Little.

The Ink Factory recently set up an Asia slate and associated financing facility to deliver adaptations of John le Carré's work to significant markets in Asia and to create a global platform for the work of talent and creators from the region. The venture has been established with the support and collaboration of Hong Kong and London-based media investment firm 127 Wall Productions and support from the British Film Institute's Global Film Screen Fund, so Asian stories will actually be told by Asians.

The three Cleopatra Wong movies established a "Cleopatra-verse" with the introduction of a teenage bionic boy character in the second movie Dynamite Johnson aka Bionic Boy (made to cash in on the popularity of The Six Million Dollar Man on TV at the time), where the heroine showed up and teamed up with him. Surely the rights holders must realize the appeal of reviving a teenage cyborg hero in the age of streaming is good business. In an era where every pre-existing IP gets a reboot, this is just par for the course.

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Adi TantimedhAbout Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.
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