Seven Stars Film Studios has tapped Gong Li to take the lead role in the China-US co-production of “The Last Empress.”

Seven Stars had announced in July that it had come on board as the lead investor in July with the late Jake Eberts producing the English-language historical drama. The studio, a subsidiary of Bruno Wu’s Seven Stars Entertainment Group, said Tuesday the production will begin in the fourth quarter of 2013 and will be dedicated to the memory of Eberts, who passed away Sept. 6.

“The Last Empress” had been developed with Eberts’ Allied Prods. East label, a joint venture with Seven Stars. Pic centers on the Empress Dowager Cixi, who consolidated control over the Qing Dynasty and ruled ruthlessly from 1861 to her death in 1908.

Li’s credits inlcude “Raise the Red Lantern” and “Memoirs of a Geisha.”

“Gong Li was our first choice to play the complex Empress,” Wu said. “She’s an exceptional Chinese actress and has been applauded throughout her career for capturing the subtle nuances of multifaceted characters and delivering powerful award-winning performances. With Gong Li’s international appeal, we are confident the movie will excite and resonate with audiences across the world”

The Allied Prods. East joint venture was announced in March, a week after Seven Stars had announced it had partnered with director Justin Lin on Perfect Storm Entertainment to create a slate of films. Allied Prods. East announced at that point that it had launched development on “Mission Boys” with Erin Cressida Wilson (‘Secretary”) writing the story of 20 Chinese high school graduates arriving in the U.S. in the 1870s to attend Harvard and Yale.