Red Cliff: John Woo’s Chinese Epic

John Woo’s historical epic, “Red Cliff,” adapted from China’s classic novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” is over four hours long.

For Asian audiences, the movie is being split into two parts. The first will be released on Thursday in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea.
In Malaysia, it bows on July 17; and in Japan in November.

Outside Asia, it will be released as a single movie, about 3 hour longs.

“Red Cliff” is a co-production of China Film Group, South Korea’s Showbox Entertainment, Taiwan’s CMC Entertainment group and Japan’s Avex Entertainment.

Director Woo is hoping the film will mark his return home to Asia after years in Hollywood. But backers of the $80 million project are taking no chances, marking the launch with a big promotional push.

The story is set in the final days of the Han Dynasty, in the year 208, covering the war that established the Three Kingdoms period, when China had three rulers.

Bad weather, the death of a stuntman and cast walkouts combined to put a pall over the production. Tony Leung initially dropped out of the picture, to be replaced by Takeshi Kaneshiro. Soon thereafter, Chow Yun-fat ankled. Then two days later Leung was back in the line-up, this time in the lead, replacing Chow.

The talent, stars Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Chang Chen and Lin Chiling, as well as Woo and producer Terence Chang, was wheeled out in Asian capitals in a bid to ensure that the film captures the Asian imagination to the extent it must to secure success across Asia.

“I have wanted to make this film for almost 20 years. James Wong Jim suggested I make a film about the war in 1986, but due to funding problems, it couldn’t be done. After Wong’s death, I felt a strong urge to make it happen,” Woo said. He added that the film’s second half was nearly ready, except for CGI details.

Asian auds are keen to welcome back local son Woo, who left Hong Kong to make his name in Hollywood with “Face/Off” and “Mission: Impossible II.”