Chinese TV Producer Zhang Jizhong has signed Neil Gaiman to write the screenplay for a $300 million adaptation of the classic Ming Dynasty novel Journey to the West. James Cameron will provide advice on both scripting and technical matters since the film will be shot in 3D. The aim is to create the first true crossover Sino-Western epic. 

Variety is reporting that the film will be made in China to take advantage of the spectacular locations and lower production costs, but it will be shot in English with a cast of Western and Chinese actors.  Guillermo del Toro is interested in directing, but wants to see the script first.

Journey to the West is one of the four classic novels of Chinese literature. It is a fictionalized account of a legendary pilgrimage to India by a Buddhist monk (Xuanzang), though the novel’s loose structure contains many disparate elements that are loosely tied together in the picaresque format of a journey. The first seven chapters detail the early exploits of the Monkey King Sun Wukong, who becomes the most intelligent and violent of Xuanzang’s four disciples. Together the five undertake a journey to retrieve the Buddhist Sutras that are the keys to enlightenment.

Journey to the West has been adapted into movies and TV series many times, most recently as The Forbidden Kingdom in 2008 that featured Jet Li as the Monkey King, and Journey to the West in 2010, which starred Stephen Chow and Zhang Yuqi. Among the many manga and anime adaptations are Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball manga, a loose adaptation (Sun Wukong became Son Goku and the Sutras became the seven Dragon Balls), while Kazuya Minekura’s Saiyuki was a bishonen (good looking guys) version of the saga.

Having Gaiman (Stardust, The Graveyard, Sandman) attached to the project is a definite coup for Zhang Jizhong in his quest to create the a viable East/West crossover epic with the potential to be a worldwide hit.