By David Chute | Thompson on Hollywood July 8, 2013 at 3:55PM
Wonderful news for fans of one the greatest directors ever of heartfelt male-bonding action movies: Director John Woo has begun production in China and Taiwan on "The Crossing," his first film since the completion four years ago of the astonishing historical epic "Red Cliff."
A combination of health issues and some difficulties winning script approval from Chinese authorities partly account for the four year hiatus. "The Crossing," previously known as "1949," has subject matter that could certainly be sensitive in China: it depicts the voyage of three refugee couples from mainland China to Taiwan during the War of Liberation. Woo is working from a script by Wang Hui-ling, who co-wrote "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and “Lust Caution” for Ang Lee. According to Variety's Patrick Frater:
"The $40 million two-part movie is backed by rising Chinese studio Beijing Galloping Horse, along with China FilmGroup and Zhejiang Huace Film & TV, with production by Woo and Terence Chang’s Lion Rock Productions. Woo and Chang have assembled a pan-Asian, all-star cast headed by Tong Dawei, Zhang Ziyi, Huang Xiaoming, South Korea’s Song Hye-kyo, Taiwan’s Takeshi Kaneshiro and Japan’s Masami Nagasawa."
Woo was already a veteran Hong Kong director with fourteen mostly comic films to his credit when he rejuvenated his career and attracted an international fan following in the 1980s, collaborating with actor Chow Yun-fat on hugely influential and super-violent gangster/gunplay films such as "A Better Tomorrow" (1986), "The Killer" (1989) and "Hard-Boiled" (1992). Woo made his Hollywood debut in 1993 with the Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle "Hard Target," followed by "Broken Arrow" (1996), "Face/Off" (1997), "Mission: Impossible II" (2000) and "Windtalkers" (2002).
The filmmaker returned to China to make "Red Cliff," released in two parts in 2008 and 2009, an epic adaptation of the Chinese literary classic "Three Kingdoms," which was widely regarded as a return to form for the director and as one of his best films. "Crossing" star Takeshi Kaneshiro played one of the three leading roles, along with Tony Leung Chiu-wai ("In the Mood for Love") and Zhang Feng-yi ("The Emperor and the Assassin").
Woo already has his next production underway, the long-in-the-works World War II drama "Flying Tigers." Subject is the famed 1st American Volunteer group, a collection of US flyers from three branches of the service who aided China's defense against the Japanese from a base in Kunming, in the Southwestern province of Yunnan.
According Terence Chang, "The Crossing" began shooting July 8 on the Scenic Studios stages in Chang Ping, near Beijing. Later this month the production will move to the CFG stages in the Huairou district in northern Beijing. The film's two major battle scenes, one from World War II and the other from the War of Liberation, will be shot in Tianmu in August and October. The production will then move to Shanghai in November and Taiwan in December.