Bruce Willis to Star in Chinese-Language Epic ‘The Bombing’

Bruce Willis
D Dipasupil/FilmMagic

While American filmmakers continue to feast on China’s capital and rapidly growing audience, the Chinese are intent on using American partnerships to enhance the size and profile of their own film industry. A consortium of Chinese filmmakers believe they have taken another step in that direction by signing Bruce Willis to a key role in a World War II epic now in production.

Willis flew Tuesday night for Shanghai after signing on just last week for eight days of shooting on “The Bombing” — a dramatic recreation of the Chinese population’s abiding endurance during the more than five years that Japan bombed the city of Chongqing, beginning in 1938.

The film, jointly funded by the state-operated China Film Group and private investors, is scheduled to be in production through August and to premiere as soon as the end of the year. The rapid schedule is designed to have the release roughly coincide with 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Sources put the budget at $90 million, making it one of the most expensive Chinese films ever.

Executive producer Yang Buting of China Film Promotion International said his team sought out Willis because of the American’s popularity with Chinese audiences. And Willis has always wanted to work in China, according to his reps. The actor understands how film fans in the Asia recognize him and also the growing importance for all films of succeeding in China, including possible future releases in the “Die Hard” and “G.I. Joe” franchises. China now has a theatrical audience second in size only to North America’s.

Yang said the film epic presented opportunities on both sides of the Pacific. “We have an ancient culture with a long history and many stories, both fiction and non-fiction, to tell,” Yang said. “America has a relatively short history but you have a much greater technology in film. So we are trying to take the history of China and meld it with the modern technology of America to make a modern film that is of the highest quality.”

Directing the epic is Xiao Feng, who previously made 2012’s “Hushed Roar,” also a war feature. The Chinese helmer recently announced on his microblog that “The Bombing” also will feature Korean actor Song Seung-heon, Hong Kong star Nicholas Tse and leading Chinese character actor Liu Ye.

The story revolves around the struggles of the people of Chongqing during continual air-raids by the Japanese, which continued from the onset of the war through 1943. More than 11,000 died, mostly civilians. While the Chinese had fighter planes, they initially lacked pilots to get them in the air and relied on American volunteers to teach them. Willis plays one of those volunteers, while Song is the Chinese trainee learning so he can protect his homeland.

“The Bombing’s” group of investors includes Shanghai Qingpu Investment, Beijing Original Pictures Television & Films Investment and businessman Shi Jian Xiang.

The air raids remain an important historic touchstone, particularly to older Chinese. “The movie is very important to us, because much of Asia was affected by the war. But there is a whole new generation that needs to remember what happened,” said exec producer Yang.

While the appearance of Chinese actors has become almost routine in large English-language productions, the flow of talent to the other side of the Pacific has been more unusual. John Cusack and Adrien Brody recently appeared in Jackie Chan-starring hit “Dragon Blade,” while Nicolas Cage headed the cast of recent flop “Outcast.” Christian Bale in 2011 starred in Zhang Yimou’s “The Flowers of War” and, this March, former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson joined a 3D Kung Fu biopic that will include a CGI Bruce Lee.

Willis’s “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” made almost $54 million in China in 2013 of its total worldwide take of $376 million. A year prior, his “The Expendables 2” raked in $53 million at Chinese theaters of its global gross of more than $305 million.

The Chinese producers hired two U.S.-based firms, Hollywood International Film Exchange (Hifex) and Bruber Enterprise, led by principals Jimmy Jiang and Beryl Huang, respectively, to make the connection with the American star. It was Bruber’s Bruno Cavelier who broached the idea of a role for Willis with CAA’s Roeg Sutherland.

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  1. legerprime says:

    Legendary Pictures should acquire the North American distribution rights like what Dark Castle Entertainment did for Splice.

  2. Fredrico says:

    Its amazing that he’s doing this film, the Communist party must be wringing their hands being able to drum up more hate against Japan, but they won’t shoot a 5 minute documentary on the 80 million Chinese that dies under Mao.
    Also, it wasn’t the communists that were doing the lion’s share of fighting against the Japanese, it was the Kuomintang under Shiang Kai Shek – Qongqing was where HIS government had based itself, the communists weren’t in the battle. ITS PROPAGANDA.
    No? Well look around on the internet for the FLYING TIGERS, the markings are always the blue sun of the KMT.

    Shame on you Mr Willis.

  3. Jack Thompson says:

    Yep, Lets do a movie about 11,000 civilians dying by the hands of the Japanese. I wonder if they will ever do a movie about the tens of millions that died during the communist reforms under the communist evil foot of Mao Zedong? Peasants were slaughtered with the indifference of smashing a fly. In other words, in the past and sometimes present, the Chinese treat(ed) their own country’s men, women and children worse than the Japanese ever did. But I’m betting they are going to skip over that inconvenient history. Now that I think about it I wonder if more Chinese have committed suicide over absolutely horrible working conditions than the Japanese ever killed?

    • Joe Lee says:

      And how many Japanese died from the hand of their own military junta rule? I thought so. China is do so well today that haters like have to bring out the ugliness in China just to make yourself feel better.

      • Fredrico says:

        80 million dead isn’t ugliness, its an absolute tragedy and disgrace. The CCP won’t care if anyone watches this outside China because its a tool to give them more credibility inside – as the Communist mouthpiece paper The Global Times, said that war with America is definite. China is building islands within Philippine territory, has threatened to turn Japan to flames and its generals have said they will “rain nuclear weapons on the United States”.

        Also, China isn’t doing so well today, their economy is diving, corruption cripples the country at all levels and they are trying to get Canada to deport all the Communist party members that thieved massive amounts of money before jumping on the plane.

  4. Bruce-uh Willus-uh says:

    Fitting title. I smell career trajectory all over this.

  5. Darren says:

    You could make some epic movies using the whole Romance of the Three Kingdoms material. If done right I think it would appeal to Western audiences too. For anyone who likes political intrigue and war movies it’s a great time period. I know China has done this for Chinese audiences like The Battle of Red Cliff and it’s sequel. I’d also like to see a live action Hollywood or better yet a mini series or series like Game of Thrones for the Unification of Japan time period.

    The time period between 1500-1602 was quite fascinating and you had some larger than life figures. A sure hit would also be making a Live Action movie or series about Miyamoto Musashi one of the greatest swordsmen in Japanese history.You already have great source material the novel Musashi written by Eiji Yoshikawa.

  6. JoeTheFilmmaker says:

    This is surely a huge step up from that Kevin Smith garbage he was doing. American cinema is dead. Deal with it.

  7. Ruckweiler says:

    Maybe he’ll do better there. A wooden actor who is as boring to watch as Nicholas Cage.

  8. TC says:

    I agree the Chinese are just whipping up hate against the Japanese. Their military is planning to eat everything they can starting with the islands owned by Japan, Philippines, Vietnam.

    • Jack Thompson says:

      I know. That’s what I was thinking. I total propaganda movie. Wonder how Willis’ future movie will do in Japan after he does this movie? The Japanese and the Chinese do not like each other at all.

      • Fredrico says:

        Actually the Japanese don’t much care about the Chinese, their war criminals were hung, the US rewrote their constitution and they’ve offered numerous apologies to China for events 70 years ago, look up Japanese Apologies to China on wiki.

        China’s response? Block wikipedia

        The Chinese government has never once mentioned any apology from Japan in its media and uses the country as an excuse to divert the population’s attention from internal problems. Bruce is about to give them a huge hand.

  9. Bill says:

    Dont do this movie Willis, if you do I will never watch another movie you make. these are Marxists using you as a propaganda tool against the Japanese., dont do it.

  10. Keith says:

    China is not only buying our real estate, but now they are buying our movie stars.

  11. JMBusiness says:

    This looks like part of the well-financed and well-coordinated campaign by the Chinese regime against the Japanese and our long-standing alliance with them. The Chinese are doing everything they can – using their propaganda apparatus, Western media and universities they’ve sponsored and movies telling fictional or highly calibrated stories.

    The political intent of the movie becomes even more clear when you read that the it’s including a Korean actor. Korean happens to be the only other Asian country other than China that is violently anti-Japanese.

    It’s ironic that Bruce Willis, a self-professed conservative, is so willing to be paid by the Chinese to become their mouthpiece.

    • Roger says:

      JM..while I don’t disagree that this is propaganda by China it is hugely understated outside of Asia the brutality the Japanese leveled against its neighbors during the middle of the century. That lack of proper respect for those crimes, recognition in history, and formal apology are what the have prevented these wounds from healing in the eyes of every Chinese and Korean

      • Darren says:

        While I understand, the sins of the father don’t pass to the son. The Japanese people of today are very different. I’m sure the Communist Chinese government has ulterior motives. Good propaganda is always important.

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