Hollywood to begin "Memoirs of a Geisha"

Years after Steven Spielberg vowed to adapt Arthur Golden's bestselling Memoirs of a Geisha for the big screen, the film-maker yesterday unveiled a sensational cast and said filming on the white-hot project will begin next month.

Golden's account of an 18-year-old Japanese's orphan's induction into the life of a geisha brings together arguably the greatest ensemble of Asian actors ever lined up for a Hollywood picture.

Hollywood has already known for some time that the picture was not going to be directed by Spielberg, as originally thought, and instead Rob Marshall will make his first directorial outing since the Oscar winning Chicago in 2002, reports Guardian.

Zhang Ziyi is in final negotiations to play the title character in the long-in-the-works film adaptation of "Memoirs of a Geisha," while the Oscar-nominated Ken Watanabe has signed on to play the male lead.

Gong Li, Michelle Yeoh, Youki Kudoh and Koji Yakusho also are in final negotiations to join the cast of the Columbia Pictures/DreamWorks/Spyglass Entertainment feature, which Rob Marshall ("Chicago") is directing, informs Reuters.

Watanabe was nominated for an Oscar for his role in the 2003 film The Last Samurai. Production of Memoirs of a Geisha will begin in Japan and Los Angeles in September. Watanabe will play the chairman - a powerful businessman with whom Sayuri, a beautiful geisha and the story's heroine, falls in love with. Sayuri will be played by Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, says ABC News.

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