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COPRODUCTION Starring Peter O'Tooleas Relic Sam Neill as Nichol Sun Li as Little Tiger Luke MacFarlane as James Tony Leung Ka Fai as the Bookman Kenneth Mitchell as Edgar Gao Yun Xiang as Wang Ma
Barry Pearson, Raymond Storey
Raymond Massey, Anne Tait,
Arnie Zipursky, Tiger Hu,
Story idea from an opera by
Chan Ka Nin & Mark Brownell
Produced by Tapestry New Opera Works
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PRODUCER ANNE TAIT wins Lifetime Achievement Award from FeFF
Tribute to Anne’s career - March 18, 2011 at the Novotel Hotel, Toronto.
The Female Eye Film Festival’s Maverick Award for Lifetime Achievement recognises innovation, creativity and perseverance in the Film and Television Industry.
Award-winner Tait says “As a casting director, I have championed the talent of hundreds of women, and my film Iron Road has as its heroine a feisty Chinese woman disguised as a guy, who triumphs against great odds while helping to build the Canadian railroad. It took us 10 years to get Iron Road on the screen and I hope this Maverick Award inspires other women to be tenacious in pursuing seemingly-impossible projects like this one.”
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The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television has honoured IRON ROAD with four Gemini nominations in these major categories:
BEST DIRECTIONDavid Wu
BEST ACTRESSSun Li
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGNLinda del Rosario
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE Lawrence Shragge
The Academy jury and voters chose SUN LI as Best Actress in a Miniseries – a surprise win for the talented superstar from Beijing.
ANNE TAIT accepted the award at the ceremony at the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto.
Iron Road Article in the Toronto Star - June 12, 2009
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Iron Road goes to dark past Shakespearean love story stars Sun Li and Peter O'Toole
By: Nicholas Keung
For Chinese railroad workers and early migrants to Canada, the new movie Iron Road rivals in significance to what The Pianist means to Jews living with memories after the persecutions during World War II – both dramas give a face to those nameless and voiceless who perished en masse in history.
Premiering at York University's Price Family Cinema Sunday, Iron Road does that in a Shakespearian fashion – through the romance between a young Chinese woman, Little Tiger, who, disguised as a boy, goes in search of her railroad-worker father in British Columbia a Canadian playboy James Nichol, whose father runs a company that builds railroad.
The movie – with a budget of more than $10 million and an international cast that includes American stars Peter O'Toole and Sam Neil, Canada's own Luke MacFarlane and Charlotte Sullivan, and China's Sun Li and Tony Leung Ka Fai – is the first big based on that dark era of Chinese-Canadian history at the turn of the late 18th century.
The events shamed Canada and forced Ottawa to issue redress and an apology to the effected community in Parliament in 2006.
The movie title, a literal translation of "railroad" from Chinese into English, symbolizes the interface of the underdog lured by the "Gold Mountain" dream who ends up abused and exploited as cheap labour. The antagonist is a growing Canada in need of labourers to do the dangerous job of building a transcontinental railroad.
"It's an amazing story of bravery and courage and a cross-cultural love story set against historical facts that many people do not know about," says producer Anne Tait.
"It touches the audience's heart and helps them go through the experience. And you do that through stories, especially love stories that pinpoints the dilemma of cross-cultural connections. That's the way to show attraction and problems."
The crew spent 31 days filming in "Chinawood," Hengdian World Studios, five hours from Shanghai. They also shot for 10 days across in Kamloops, Kelowna and Lynn Canyon, B.C. The beautiful natural landscapes are juxtaposed with human hardships – constant verbal abuses, inhumane living conditions, life-threatening jobs to set explosions to break ground for the rails and isolation from families and loved ones.
Those human tragedies are painted subtly, with the close-ups of callused hands driving the spikes to secure the rails and the panning across the grave markers dotted along the railroads to signal the Chinese lives lost in the process.
The hostile chants – "Chinamen" and "We don't want you here. Go home!" – that greeted the railroad workers are haunting.
Tait, a Toronto-based producer and casting director, said she was initially inspired to make the movie by the Chan Ka Nin opera of the same title eight years ago. The music and lyrics imprinted in her mind's eyes "an image of a Chinese woman disguised as a guy setting dynamites in the rock cliff." She called her friend, scriptwriter Barry Pearson, to discuss a film story. Writer Raymond Storey was later brought in.
But the filming wasn't possible until May 2007 with the feature's executive producers Arnie Zipursky, Tiger Hu and Han Sanping lined up, as well as funding from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Canadian Television Fund, Film Initiative British Columbia, Ontario Media Development Corp., Astral Media, Cogeco Cable Fund and Shaw Rocket Fund.
So, is the movie a chick flick?
"Yes, a bit," said Tait with a chuckle. "But an epic, historical chick flick."
Sun Li awarded Best Actress, miniseries, for Iron Road at the Roma FictionFest, July 2008
Chinese star Sun Li with director David Wu, accepts best actress award at ceremony in Beijing.
Iron Road Wins Four Awards
At the Leo Awards, held by the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Foundation of British Columbia:
Best Cinematography in a Feature Length Drama -- Attila Szalay Best Production Design in a Feature Length Drama -- Linda Del Rosario Best Costume Design in a Feature Length Drama -- Maya Mani Best Make-Up in a Feature Length Drama -- Joanne Kinchella
Iron Road Wins Audience Favourite Award at the Dominican Film Festival
Star Charlotte Sullivan and Producer Anne Tait (right and left of center) at the 1500-seat Teatro Nacional with representatives of the Chinese Community in traditional costumes.
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Photos From The Set
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Just before the cameras roll, the IRON ROAD cast and crew hold a traditional Chinese ceremony to invoke good luck for production by burning joss sticks, and offering a suckling pig and other delicacies to the film gods. Pictured are: Kate Luoshan, Arnie Zipursky, Luke MacFarlane, Peter O'Toole, director David Wu, Raymond Massey, Sun Li, Cinematographer Attila Szalay, and stunt choreographer Paul Rapovski.
Sun Li [Little Tiger] with the costume designer Maya Mani (right)
Peter O'Toole as the dissolute Mr. Relic with director David Wu
Shooting Begins on Iron Road
By Clifford Coonan, Variety.com April
BEIJING -- Lensing has begun on a Chinese-Canadian
co-production in China's Hengdian Studios,
a love story set against the building
of the railroad through the Rocky Mountains,
thesp Sun Li, Peter O'Toole, Sam
Neill, Tony Leung Ka Fai and
Helmer is David Wu.
"Iron Road" will be a feature
pic and a two-part mini-series and will
shoot in China for five weeks
and British Columbia for two weeks. It
is the first film in 22 years to be made
under the China-Canada
film co-production treaty. Producer Raymond
Massey said lower production
costs in China
allowed him to do a lot
more with the budget than it would in
"But the main reason we're shooting
like this is because this is a natural
the two countries. It's a chapter of Canadian
history that hasn't been told and in a
way it's our
apology to China for what happened,"
he said by telephone from Hengdian.
Sun Li, who starred
in "Fearless" and "Jade
Goddess of Mercy", plays a street
Little Tiger, and is the character on
which the drama of the whole pic hinges.
Helmer David Wu began
his career in China as John Woo's
editor and among his credits are
"Merlin's Apprentice", "Son
of the Dragon" and "Plague City-
Sars in Toronto".
Pic was inspired by an opera by Chan Ka
Nin and Mark Brownell, and scribes on
Screenwriters were Barry Pearson
and Raymond Storey.
It is scheduled for feature release in
Asia and Europe, and broadcast on CBC
(Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)
Network in 2008.
As well as Massey, other producers include
Anne Tait, Barry Pearson and
Executive prods are Arnie Zipursky,
Han Sanping, Massey and
Worldwide distribution is by Alchemy
and CCI Releasing.
O'Toole, Neill board 'Iron Road'
By: Archie Thomas, March 2007 MIP
LONDON - Peter O'Toole
and Sam Neill will star in "Iron
Road," a television miniseries and
about the building of the North American
The romantic action-adventure sees a poor
Chinese railroad worker become romantically
with the son of a Yankie railroad tycoon.
"Iron Road" is produced by Mainland
Productions and Iron Road Productions,
in association with the
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and
with the participation of the COGECO Program
Further coin came from Shaw Rocket Fund
and the Canadian Television Fund.
London-based Alchemy Television is distributing
in all territories other than China and
Steam Onto Screen
May 04 2007
By Laurel Smith, Staff
Kamloops is riding the rail to the little
In June, the Kamloops region will
be the central focus of a CBC two-part
miniseries and movie,
booked to be aired in 2008. The
co-production, titled Iron
will feature several local areas
and the historic 2141 steam-powered
train. Iron Road,
written by Barry Pearson
and Raymond Storey,
is the first Canadian-Chinese co-production
in 22 years.
The story, inspired by an opera
by Chan Ka Nin and Mark Brownell,
is one of love and the
construction of the railroad in
Actress Sun Li
plays the part of Little Tiger,
a street urchin dressed as a boy,
who falls in love with
a railroad tycoon's son, James (Luke
Other stars include Peter
O'Toole, Sam Neill (who
will be in Kamloops during filming),
Chinese heart-throb Tony
Leung Ka Fai.
There is the possibility of 65 extras
needed per day for 14 days, according
to the Thompson-Nicola
Film Commission, and an estimated
30 to 40 local hires as crewmembers
over a two-week period.
Part of the movie will be filmed
in China for five weeks, and in
B.C. for another three weeks.
Vicci Weller, executive director
of the Thompson-Nicola Film Commission,
has been scouting
locations for three months for the
movie around the Kelowna Pacific
Railroad between Armstrong
and Kamloops, Brodie Loop, and Razor
Kettle Valley Railroadbeds, tunnels and cliffs
were all inspected by Weller, who
Kamloops is considered a prime location
for directors and producers due
to its short trip into
the wilds of Canada and beauty of
landscape. After taking numerous
photos of locations,
Weller uploaded them to a website
for Massey and Wu to peruse. Brenda
manager at the Kamloops Heritage
Railway, said some filming will
take place onboard the historic
2141 stream engine. Pollock
said a crew of four will
run the engine while filming
and that there will be no change
to the regular schedule. She said
few demands had been made
from the director, except that a
few modifications had to be made
to the 1912 engine so it would
fit the look of a steam
train in the 1880s. And
he requested crewmen grow
beards and wear costumes
to suit the role of railroad men
in the 1880s. "We're all really
forward to it and we are really
excited," said Pollack.
The shooting time onboard will take
six days, starting June 9. Anyone
curious to see the train
decked out, or catch a glimpse of
the movie set, can still purchase
tickets for the Armstrong Explorer.
which travels from Campbell Creek
to Armstrong and back.
Lured by the myth of "Gum San", the Gold Mountain where fortunes are made, thousands
of desperate Chinese workers leave their homeland with a dream – to make their fortune in
North America by laying a coast-to-coast railroad through the treacherous mountain passes.
They learn that railroads only bring fortune to the few. They learn that building a railroad
means explosives and iron, rock and wood. Every foot is purchased with muscle and sweat.
Every mile is bought with courage, fear, and death.
The Canadian Pacific Railway, completed in 1885, was the last of the great iron roads
built in North America and left behind a mythology that lives today as part of our heritage.
Iron Road is the story of the hard-won triumph of a Chinese street urchin named Little Tiger,
whose quest for her long-lost father takes her from a fireworks factory in China to a remote
construction camp in the Rockies. She falls in love, survives prejudice and treachery,
and achieves a bittersweet fulfillment of her quest.
It’s the story of the transformation of James Nichol, the irresponsible son of a railroad
tycoon, a night traveler without a star, into a man of character and purpose.
And it's the story of a Book Man, the Chinese overseer of Little Tiger's crew -- proud, scarred,
a rebel hunted down by his enemies, struggling for revenge in that perilous world.
Their story is a window into the neglected history of how Chinese workers helped forge the
railroad that held Canada together.
It begins in Southern China in a fireworks factory where Little Tiger ekes out a living, disguised
as a teenaged boy. A handsome North American playboy named James Nichol is about to walk
into her life and change it forever.
The IRON ROAD story
It's 1882 and Alfred Nichol, the tycoon building the railroad through the massive Rocky
mountains, faces bankruptcy! His banker, George Grant, would call his loans, except that
his daughter is crazy about Nichol's playboy son, James.
Desperate, Nichol dispatches James to China to hire a crew of "Chinks" to blast a track through
the rock, at rock-bottom wages.
When James arrives, he’s accosted by a street urchin nicknamed ‘Little Tiger’, whose fierce
ambition is to get to North America, where his father died mysteriously, working on the railroad.
In a fight with a Chinese gang lord, Little Tiger saves James's life. James is grateful and agrees
to hire the kid on his crew sailing to the new world.
He never suspects the truth: that Little Tiger is actually a beautiful young woman who has
disguised herself to work in a man's world … and that she's falling in love with him!
As their railcar approaches the camp, Little Tiger sees grave-markers along the track – signs of
the Chinese who have died on the cliffs. And once they arrive, she’s in for more shocks: the white
bosses are racists, the work is back-breaking, and her tyrannical Chinese boss, The Book Man, is
involved in some kind of scam to pocket the wages of the dead Chinese workers.
At the same time, her attraction to James mounts until, under the moon at a secret mountain pool,
she decides to reveal her secret to him.
When the Book Man and his cohorts discover that Little Tiger is about to expose their scam, they
plot a fatal "accident" for the kid on the sheer rock face.
Now everything is at stake -- Little Tiger's life, James's love for her, and her search for the truth
about her father.