‘Daggers’ flies to SPC

Zhang's action-romancer preems Wednesday

Marking the first major U.S. acquisition of a film out of this year’s official Cannes selection, Sony Pictures Classics has picked up North American rights to Zhang Yimou’s epic adventure “House of Flying Daggers.”

Set during the decline of the Tang Dynasty in 859 A.D., the film deals with love and betrayal within secret societies vying for the loyalty of the emperor as corrupt governments battle with rebel armies formed in protest.

Produced by Bill Kong and Zhang Weiping, the action-romance stars Zhang Ziyi, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Andy Lau. It premieres Wednesday out of competition.

“This is our sixth film from a filmmaker regarded as one of the very best in the world,” SPC co-presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard said.

SPC previously released Zhang’s “The Story of Qiu Ju,” “Shanghai Triad,” “Not One Less,” “The Road Home” and “Happy Times.” Kong also produced the distrib’s top-grossing title, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

Zhang’s previous feature, Oscar-nominated martial arts costumer “Hero,” will be released in the U.S. by Miramax this summer, a year and a half after its international debut. Pic has grossed more than $100 million worldwide.

Barker, Bernard and SPC senior VP of acquisitions and production Dylan Leiner negotiated the deal with producer Kong. Focus Intl. is selling foreign territories on the pic.