John Woo is headed back to his native China for his first film in four years. Well, maybe five, depending on how you want to count it. Like Peter Jackson’s forays into Middle Earth, Woo’s last project, Red Cliff, was filmed in one shoot but releases in two parts in consecutive years. Red Cliff 1 came out in 2008. And so it will go for Woo’s next project as well, or so goes the plan at the moment.
The new project is called The Crossing, and it tells the story of three couples aboard a ship crossing the South China Sea in 1949, fleeing the mainland for Taiwan during the Communist revolution in China that saw Mao Zedong rise to power. Perhaps predictably, the project has been off to a bit of a slow start while the production has contended with government nervousness over any depiction of the 1949 revolution, but is currently shooting in China.
The big-budget film is being financed and produced entirely by Chinese companies, and has been in the works since the completion of Woo’s Red Cliff films.
The leading roles are being played by Chinese, South Korean, Japanese, and Taiwanese A-listers, including Zhang Ziyi (Memoirs of a Geisha, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Tong Dawei (The Flowers of War), Song Hye Kyo (The Grandmaster), and Takeshi Kaneshiro (House of Flying Daggers). The script is being handled by Wang Huiling, best known for writing the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon script with Ang Lee, as well as the Jackie Chan movie The Myth and a number of other Chinese films.
The Crossing‘s subject matter may have particular significance for Woo. Woo was born in 1946, three years prior to the revolution. Following persecution at the hands of Mao’s government, his family fled to Hong Kong when Woo was just five.
After the layoff preparing The Crossing, it seems Woo is itching to get back in the director’s chair. Production for Flying Tigers, about retired military airman Lieutenant General Claire Lee Chennault who began advising the Chinese government in 1937 during the Second Sino-Japanese War and continued to train pilots and fly for China during WWII, is already planned for early 2014. It will be a joint production between American and Chinese companies, but reportedly will be filmed primarily in Cantonese.