The film is directed by popular actress Vicky Zhao Wei and backed by mainland Chinese companies including Alibaba Pictures Group. Production is headed by Max Film.
The film’s production team issued a statement Friday saying that the director and investors were not satisfied with Dai’s recent clarification of his position on the issue and that he would therefore be replaced as the lead actor. They apologized “for hiring the wrong person.”
The film had completed principal photography in June and had begun post production. Replacing Dai would therefore appear to require extensive reshooting. The production team and investors offered no clarification on that point.
Alibaba Pictures told Variety that it was not the principal investor and had not taken part in the original casting decisions.
The statement said the production team did not have a thorough understanding of Dai’s political position. “After multiple communications with Mr Dai, his stance was still unclear as of last night. Therefore, the director and all investors unanimously agreed to remove Dai from his leading role,” the statement said.
“The director and the entire crew dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to China,” it continued. “We are all Chinese, and we firmly support the one China policy. Our country’s interests are our top priorities […] Any ambiguous stance over the country and national identity is intolerable.”
Taiwan broke away from China in 1949 as Communist forces took over continental China and hundreds of thousands fled to the island. It has been self-governed since then, but China regards it as a rebel province with which it will eventually be reunited, by force if necessary.
Dai, who co-starred in last year’s Cannes competition film “The Assassin,” by Hou Hsiao-hsien, is a familiar figure in movies on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, and is set to appear in no less than 11 films in 2015 and 2016.
He also won the Golden Horse Award in 2009 as best director for his “Cannot Live Without You” (aka “No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti”.) The film also collected the best film prize and was Taiwan’s submission for the foreign-language Oscars.
In the run up to the recent decision about China’s economic position in the South China Sea, Zhao and the film makers had come under pressure from patriotic mainland forces. Many used Chinese social media to call for a boycott of Zhao and the film if Dai were not removed from the picture.
On June 30 Dai issued a statement on his Weibo social media account. In it he said it was wrong to characterize him as in favor of Taiwanese independence. He confirmed that he had previously spoken out against forced evictions and nuclear power, and in favor of gay rights, but had never joined a political party. He said that he was “against oppression and respects the views of other people.”
Chinese nationalists have been playing an active role in the Internet realm over the past week. Some Hong Kong celebrities also came under fire for not posting patriotic messages following the Hague ruling on South China Sea disputes.
After the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled against China’s claims over territorial control in the South China Sea, many Hong Kong and mainland Chinese celebrities such as mainland actress Fan Bingbing and actor Huang Xiaoming posted patriotic messages and a map that included the territory in question on their social media to protest against the ruling.
Action star Jackie Chan, despite being widely known for his patriotic stance, was criticized by netizens for posting his pictures with Fan – his co-star in “Skiptrace” – instead of messages against the Hague ruling.