×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Fan Bingbing Returns to Screen in Jessica Chastain’s ‘355’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Fan Bingbing is returning to the screen in Jessica Chastain’s “355,” the highly anticipated action film that cast the Chinese superstar just a few months before a tax-evasion scandal brought her career to a screeching halt.

Sources confirmed to Variety that “355” is set to begin shooting this year with its previously announced stars – Chastain, Fan, Lupita Nyong’o, Penelope Cruz and Marion Cotillard – and director Simon Kinberg. “The project is moving forward with the original cast and filmmaker, and a start date announcement with full details will be forthcoming,” a source close to the production said.

However, the film has lost the backing of China’s Huayi Brothers Media, raising questions about how it is being financed. “We are no longer involved with this project,” a Huayi spokesman told Variety this week, without further elaboration.

“355,” an all-female spy thriller produced through Chastain’s Freckle Films and introduced to foreign investors and distributors by FilmNation, was the hottest-selling item in the Cannes market last May. The project’s budget has been tagged around $75 million.

But Fan’s participation, and the fate of the film, was thrown in doubt when a whistle-blower alleged last June that the actress had deliberately under-reported her income to tax authorities through the use of secret contracts – a not-uncommon practice in the Chinese entertainment industry. Fan abruptly dropped out of public view for months until re-emerging last October and confessing publicly to her misdeeds. She and her companies were told that they had to pay a staggering RMB 883 million ($129 million) in fines, back taxes, late payment penalties and interest.

While Fan appears to have escaped criminal sanctions and an official ban on her as a performer, the Chinese film industry has held back from re-embracing her. She has disappeared from billboards and magazine pages, popping up only occasionally on social media to make banal and friendly comments.

“355” appears to be her first fresh acting gig since the tax scandal. Depending on the eventual start date of shooting, she may not appear back on screen until late 2020 or even 2021.

In a video interview with the Collider.com website, director Kinberg said last week that he expects the film to shoot this year. He added that the original cast remain “more than interested – they are committed.”

But other details are unclear. CAA’s media finance department handled rights sales to “355” for North America and Greater China, scoring deals reported to be worth more than $20 million each with Universal and Huayi Brothers, respectively. CAA represents Kinberg and all five actresses.

Huayi Brothers has now dropped out of the project for unspecified reasons. The decision could reflect a determination that Fan remains a toxic figure in China and that importing a Hollywood title starring her would be too difficult. It could also reflect Huayi’s own financial problems. After sliding into loss in 2018, the company issued a warning to shareholders this week that it expects to lose about $13.5 million (RMB 92 million) in the first quarter of 2019.

More Film

  • 180423_A24_Day_03B_0897.jpg

    Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe's The Lighthouse' Wins Cannes Critics' Award

    Robert Eggers’ “The Lighthouse,” with Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, won the Cannes Film Festival critics’ award for best first or second feature in Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week, one of the first prizes for which “The Lighthouse” has been eligible at Cannes. The award was announced Saturday in Cannes by the Intl. Federation of [...]

  • promenade Cannes Croisette Cannes Placeholder

    Cannes Market Claims Record Visitor Numbers

    The Cannes Market, the Cannes Film Festival’s commercial wing, says that its 2019 edition welcomed a record number of participants. It reported 12,527 attendees. The largest group by nationality was from the U.S. with 2,264 participants, followed by France with 1,943 participants, and the U.K. 1,145. Comparable figures for 2018 were not available. The number [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Alien' at 40: Ridley Scott Explains Why 'You Don't Show the Monster Too Many Times'

    It’s difficult to imagine Ridley Scott’s sci-fi/horror classic “Alien” without the clear-minded, strong presence of Tom Skerritt as Dallas, the captain of the ill-fated Nostromo. But originally, the actor turned down “Alien,” which celebrates its 40th anniversary on May 25, though he thought Dan O’Bannon’s script read well. “There was nobody involved at the time [...]

  • The Poison Rose

    Film Review: 'The Poison Rose'

    It is 1978 in the City of Angels and the hard-drinking washed-up sleuth Carson Phillips is having another boozy day through its atmospheric streets. There is a hint of innate coolness and self-deprecation in his elongated voiceover intro — you might even briefly mistake Carson, played by a one-note John Travolta, for a Philip Marlowe [...]

  • 'On a Magical Night' Review: A

    Cannes Film Review: 'On a Magical Night'

    Most of us, in our romantic lives, meditate here and there on the other roads we might have traveled, and movies are uniquely equipped to channel those alternate-universe-of-love possibilities. That’s the idea at the (broken) heart of “Casablanca.” And the fantasy of getting to see the turns your life didn’t take play out right in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content