Hong Kong thesp Lau will star

Huayi Brothers underlined its claim to be one of the most powerful forces in Chinese moviemaking when it unveiled its next project, the $16 million historical epic “Battle of Wits,” on Thursday.

Hong Kong thesp Andy Lau will star.

Some scenes have already been shot in Inner Mongolia, and Chinese journalists packed a traditional Beijing Opera theater to meet Lau, helmer Jacob Cheung and mainland co-stars Wang Zhiwen and Fan Bingbing and Korea’s An Sung-gi.

Story is based on a well-known Japanese manga and set in the “warring states period.” Local media have already reported a huge city invasion scene in Mongolia involving 1,000 extras.

Alongside Huayi, pic’s drawing coin from Hong Kong’s Sundream Motion Pictures, Japanese distributor Comstock and Korean investor Boram Entertainment.

Production is expected to continue through early next year, with release skedded for the end of 2006.

Huayi is also producing the $15 million “Banquet,” now in production with Ziyi Zhang starring. It was behind two of last year’s biggest — Chinese pics “Kung Fu Hustle” and “A World Without Thieves.”

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