Fans who were excited about the return of the legendary John Woo/Chow Yun Fat team can go ahead and get unexcited: three days into shooting the expensive historical epic Red Cliff, Chow’s out.
At 70 million dollars, Red Cliff is most expensive Chinese film ever, with the script clocking in at four hours (Asian markets will see the film in two parts. American audiences will get one three hour version). There’s all sorts of reasons swirling for the sudden departure of the film’s star – producer Terence Chang said that the bond company couldn’t approve Chow’s agreement, and that he made ‘unreasonable demands’ that went above and beyond the usual. Chow has said that he only just received the full script recently, and that he was unsure he could actually do the job properly because of that. He had also mentioned that he felt he was doing the movie at a discount, since it was being released in two halves and he was just getting paid for one job.
Chow’s not the first quitter, although he’s obviously the most catastrophic. Tony Leung Chiu-wai, star of Infernal Affairs, dropped out a couple of weeks ago because he just couldn’t commit to a full six month shoot. In the Chinese industry movie stars will make five movies in six months, with time to record two albums stuffed in there.
Woo is pressing on with the film, rearranging the schedule to shoot around the fact that he has no leading man, but can the picture survive this blow? And is this the end of the Chow/Woo friendship? The answers to these mysteries on the next Desperate Chinese Filmmakers.