Chow Exits Green Hornet

Stephen Chow, director and star of the breakout hits Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, is no longer helming Columbia Pictures’ The Green Hornet. Daily Variety reports that he will still play martial arts expert sidekick Kato, a role made famous by Bruce Lee on TV in the 1960s. Comedic actor Seth Rogen has slimmed down to play the title crime fighter in this tongue-in-cheek adaptation, which he also wrote with exec producer Evan Goldberg.

Production is expected to commence this spring and Columbia is scrambling to find a new director. Chow reportedly dropped out over creative differences. A replacement is expected to be hired by the end of the year.

From Lone Ranger creators Fran Striker and George Trendle, The Green Hornet debuted as a radio serial in 1936 and eventually made its way to comics, television and film. The stories followed the adventures of Britt Reid, a millionaire publisher who dons a mask to fight crime with the help of his Asian valet, Kato. The characters were first portrayed in serials by Gordon Jones and Keye Luke, who was best known as ‘No. 1 Son’ in the Charlie Chan films. Bruce Lee portrayed Kato alongside Van Williams as Reid in 26 episodes of the 1966 television incarnation. Several of the episodes were spliced together and released as a feature in 1974, but more recent attempts to bring the property to the big screen have been foiled. Universal had its eye on the franchise for a while and Clerks director Kevin Smith was at one time developing a script for Miramax.

Neal H. Moritz is producing the film through his Sony-based production company, Original Film. The producer of Evan Almighty, Click and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift developed the project with Rogen. The pic is slated for release on June 25, 2010.