As the crew completed filming, she sat in her jeans on the beachfront while stuntmen shot a typhoon sequence, her voice fighting wind machines blowing a gale through water pumped from the South China Sea.
And would I come here again? Again, no. The producer's bluntness was controversial on the ''Tai-pan'' set from the start. Production had hardly begun when she launched into a running battle with the Chinese host organizations, Central China television and Pearl River Studios, the state-run film makers in Canton.
The strains spread to the foreigners on the ''Tai-pan'' crew, a mixture of about 20 nationalities, predominantly American, British and Italian.
Others felt that the hosts had generally done their best, that a clash of cultures was inevitable and that matters would have gone more smoothly if Miss de Laurentiis had been less confrontational. Charles Jennings, an American whose job as executive in charge of production put him in the thick of many of the disputes, belonged to the second camp, as did the director, Mr.
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However, both said that factors beyond Miss de Laurentiis's control, including the unsophisticated nature of the Chinese film industry and continuing political sensitivities, raised questions about the viability of any major Hollywood-style production here. Jennings, who has plans for further productions in China, said that the lesson of ''Tai-pan'' was to stick to smaller projects. Sun Changcheng, director of Pearl River Studios, agreed that the Chinese crews who worked on the film had learned a good deal, but laid blame for the problems directly on Miss de Laurentiis.
We will draw our lessons, and look forward to more such ventures in the future. For the Chinese, the making of ''Tai-pan'' fell within Deng Xiaoping's ''open door'' policy, under which the country has admitted a rush of foreign entrepreneurs. From this perspective the difficulties that enmeshed the film were not much different from those that have soured relations in numerous industrial ventures where foreign capital and technology have been mated to Chinese labor, always under conditions that give the Chinese the final say. Few such ventures have prospered, and in most, relations between the two sides have become seriously strained.
Some of the producer's biggest headaches were occasioned by Chinese demands for money.
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Miss de Laurentiis called this a ''license fee,'' and contrasted it with arrangements elsewhere in the developing world, where governments compete to attract film companies. To Mr. Sun, the studio boss, the ''commission'' was normal practice - normal, he might have said, in a country where any organization sponsoring film makers is taking a political risk. The fee was separate from operating costs, levied by the Chinese at rates close to those charged in the West. It also led to some stiff ''compensation'' payments where the Chinese judged that the filming had disrupted normal economic rhythms.
And the requirement that all Chinese labor be employed and paid through Mr.
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