In a plot that is right out of the movies, foul play has hit Netflix’s production of the Chinese best-selling novel Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem, in what looks to be attempted murder.
Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were tapped to bring the series to Netflix after the streaming giant had acquired the English-language adaptations of the hit novel from Chinese company the Yoozoo Group and one of its subsidiaries, Three-Body Universe.
Lin Qi, Yoozoo Group’s chairman and a producer on the Netflix series, was hospitalized in Shanghai, after what police are saying was an attempt on his life by poisoning. The local authorities have apprehended a suspect who they believe is responsible for the murder attempt on Qi, been identified by Chinese media outlets as 39-year-old Xu Yao.
Xu Yao is a senior executive in Yoozoo’s film and television division and while no exact motive has been given by the Chinese authorities, there have been local reports stating that a dispute among Yoozoo’s top executive ranks could be the genesis of the near-fatal attack. It is also reported that Xu allegedly carried out his murder attempt via a cup of poisoned tea.
Netflix had planned a major event series with the Benioff and Weiss-led production, which also saw the streaming giant bringing on Alexander Woo (The Terror: Infamy) as the series’ showrunner. Other big-time heavyweights such as Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment company, Rosamund Pike and Robie Uniacke for Primitive Streak, and Rian Johnson are on board as executive producers.
As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Shanghai Public Security Bureau posted a statement to their official website concerning the failed murder attempt: “At 5pm on Dec 17, 2020, the police received a call from a hospital regarding a patient surnamed Lin. During the patient’s treatment, the hospital said it had determined that the patient had been poisoned. Following the call, the police began an investigation. According to investigations on site and further interviews, the police found that a suspect surnamed Xu, who is a coworker of the victim Lin, was the most likely the perpetrator. The suspect Xu has been arrested and investigations continue.”
Bringing Liu’s novel to screen has been a challenge. Liu’s The Three-Body Problem won him the coveted Hugo Award for Best Novel, a first for an Asian novel. Yoozoo jumped on it, acquiring its rights in December 2015, announcing they would be working together with Liu to produce both a Chinese-language film and a video game adaptation. The plan was for a July 2016 film release, but many problems on set began to arise, including the firing of the entire post-production team, as well as the VFX team. Plans were eventually scrapped for the Chinese-language movie, as Netflix was stepping in to take on the property.
More controversy followed immediately after Netflix jumped on board. A group of Republican senators challenged Netflix’s decision to get involved with the project after author Liu gave a lengthy interview with The New Yorker and spoke about China’s mass internment of Uyghur Muslims in the country’s Xinjiang Province. Liu said, “Would you rather that they be hacking away at bodies at train stations and schools in terrorist attacks? If anything, the government is helping their economy and trying to lift them out of poverty.” The Senators then sent a letter, which was signed by Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Martha McSally (R., Ariz.), Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.), and Thom Tillis (R., N.C.)., to Netflix’s chief content officer and co-CEO Ted Sarandos, asking for justification in working with Liu.
Netflix responded in kind, informing the Senator’s that though Liu backs the Chinese Government and their inhumane policy, the streaming giant, as well as Benioff and Weiss, do not. Their response, through The Hollywood Reporter said, “Mr. Liu is a Chinese citizen living in China — he is the author of the books, not the creator of this Netflix series. The creators are David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the creators of Game of Thrones, and Alexander Woo, executive producer/writer on the series True Blood.” They also stated that Netflix “judges individual projects on their merits” and absolutely do not agree with Liu’s comments “which are entirely unrelated to his book or this Netflix show.”
With the status of the production in limbo at the moment, it’s unclear what Netflix’s plans with this adaptation of Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem are at the moment.