BEIJING, Sept. 3 (Xinhuanet) -- Zhang Yimou's next directorial work will be a costume drama, according to production company ESA Cultural Investment.
Zhang will co-direct a film about a legendary beauty from 1,400 years ago with Tian Zhuangzhuang, said Zhang Chao, publicity director for ESA. She confirmed that filming started on Sunday.
Le Vision Pictures, the company that signed Zhang Yimou to a three-year contract in May, said the director will act "more like a friend who lends Tian a hand" in several major scenes for the movie.
Zhang and Tian were classmates at the prestigious Beijing Film Academy. Zhang studied in the cinematography department while Tian studied in the directing department from 1978-82.
The untitled project will detail the life of Yang Yuhuan, one of the four beauties of ancient China. Yang was a concubine of Emperor Xuanzong during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). According to folklore, Yang's beauty incited a national war.
Mainland actress Fan Bingbing will play the title role opposite Hong Kong actor Leon Lai, who plays the emperor. Fan had a cameo role in the Chinese mainland version of Iron Man 3. She also plays a supporting role in the upcoming X-Men film.
Huang Ziying, Fan's publicist, told China Daily that the actress is delighted to be working with two of the most established directors in China and that she is looking forward to producing solid work.
Actress and director Joan Chen as well as rising star Chun Wu are among the film's cast.
Period dramas are nothing new for Zhang. In 2002, his martial arts film Hero topped the mainland box office and ushered in an era of Chinese blockbusters featuring all-star casts and grand scenes.
He made a number of period pieces following Hero, and although many of them were box office successes, they were not well received by critics.
He returned to romance in Under the Hawthorn Tree in 2010 and followed that with a slapstick adaptation of the Coen Brother's Blood Simple.
His last film, The Flowers of War, a historical drama film set during the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, starred Christian Bale.
After Zhang signed with Le Vision in May, he said his first film, as confirmed by Le Vision CEO Zhang Zhao, would be about a writer's experiences during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76). Filming has yet to begin.
(Source: China Daily)