Star exits Woo epic three days into shooting

HONG KONG — Chinese superstar Chow Yun-fat has dropped out of John Woo’s mega-budget “Red Cliff” only three days into shooting.

Producer and Woo’s partner in Lion Rock Entertainment Terence Chang told Variety “We are reworking our schedule right now as we have to shoot around the absent leading man.” Lensing began Saturday in Hebei Province near Beijing.

By way of explanation for the shock move Chang said: “We are replacing Chow Yun-fat since the bond company CineFinance would not approve his agreement.”

Agency reports quoted a China Film Group source as saying that Chow had made “unreasonable demands” that exceeded industry standards. Chow is understood to have said that he only received a final script a few days ago and was not sure he would do justice to the character.

The $70 million budget picture is the biggest budget Chinese film ever made and one of the largest of the year to be made as an independent picture. It is Woo’s first Chinese-language film in many years after a Hollywood career that has included “Face/Off” and “Mission: Impossible 2.”

Budget was put together by China Film Group, Japan’s Avex Entertainment, China’s Chengtian Entertainment, Taiwan’s CMC Entertainment and Korea’s Showbox. Int’l sales are handled by LA-based Summit Entertainment.

The heavyweight script by Woo Chan Khan, Guo Zheng and Sheng Heyu weighs in at a four hour film. For Asian territories pic is to be split into two parts. North American and other int’l auds will receive a single movie, possibly weighing in at close to three hours.

Remaining cast is now confirmed as including Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Chiling Lin, Chang Chen, Vicky Zhao and Hu Jun.

Chow reportedly said that he had effectively taken a pay cut, by not asking for a raise after the decision to make the movie a two-parter.

Chow’s ankling is the second high profile departure for “Red Cliff”. A few weeks back Tony Leung Chiu-wai (“Bullet In The Head,” “In The Mood For Love”) quit, suggesting that he could not make a commitment for the whole of the massive six month-long lensing.

Chow departure, however, is a psychological blow. Chow was the iconic star of many early Woo films including “A Better Tomorrow” and “Hard Boiled.”

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