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Leung rejoins ‘Red Cliff’

Actor to star in Woo's latest project

HONG KONG — Tony Leung Chiu-wai has stepped in to take the lead in John Woo’s “Red Cliff,” only two days after “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” star Chow Yun-fat dropped out.

Leung (“In the Mood for Love,” “Bullet in the Head”) will start early next week. Production, which is under way in Hebei province, will continue on location for a few more days before moving to studios in Beijing.

Investors in the $70 million picture including China Film Group and Avex Entertainment and Hong Kong distrib Mei Ah Entertainment issued statements in support of the switcheroo.

Leung dropped out of the film in March when he was skedded to play a different character. At the time, he said he felt unable to commit to the six-month shoot that the pic entails. He was replaced by Takeshi Kaneshiro. Others in the cast include Zhang Fengyi, Chiling Lin, Chang Chen, Vicky Zhao and Hu Jun.

Circumstances of Chow’s departure are still unclear. There have been accusations in Chinese-language press of unreasonable demands by the thesp and conditions that completion bond company CineFinance could not accept. Chow countered that the same company has bonded him on two previous occasions and with the same requirements.

A hefty screenplay by Woo Chan Khan, Guo Zheng and Sheng Heyu will lead to a four-hour film. For Asian territories pic is to be split into two parts. Other auds will receive a single movie. Pic, which is repped in international territories by L.A.-based Summit Entertainment, was widely sold at the February edition of the European Film Market.