While I eagerly await for Sony Pictures Classics to release Zhang Yimou’s The First Gun in the U.S. (despite the negative response it’s apparently received at home in China), I can’t help but leapfrog that movie in order to excitedly bring news of the filmmaker’s next film: The Thirteen Women of Jinling (also known as The 13 Women of Nanjing). According to a Chinese website, Jingling will apparently take priority over Yimou’s other in-the-works project, Romance Under a Hawthorn Tree, and it will feature a Hollywood A-list actor in some capacity.
Producer Zhang Weiping mentions only the biggest and best as potentials, with Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt allegedly all showing interest. One of these actors could fill the role of a pastor in the film, which will be set in a Nanjing church during the Japanese invasion of 1937. As for the titular women, all prostitutes who sought shelter in church, Weiping says they’re looking for unknown actresses with “good foreign language skills” (likely meaning they can speak enough English to act opposite a big Hollywood movie star).
Jinling is described as a Schindler’s List type of epic film by the producer. And at a cost of $100 million, the film’s budget is the biggest yet for Yimou, who has become mainland China’s most internationally famous director with arthouse dramas like Raise the Red Lantern and action spectacles like Hero. The reported price tag also puts Jingling above John Woo’s recent two-part epic Red Cliff as the most expensive Asian film yet.
With one of those three actors on board, even if only for a small part, Yimou could also see his highest international gross. He’d probably need to feature some of his stylish action showpieces to bring in the large crowd that went to see Hero in American multiplexes, though it’s doubtful Jingling will feature such large-scale war sequences if it wants to be on the level with Schindler’s List.