Chinese film to star Hollywood's Bale

Wed Dec 22, 2010 11:16am EST
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By Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) - Zhang Yimou, one of China's best-known directors, and local movie moguls is hoping for an ascendance on the world's silver screens to match the country's rise on the global political and economic stage.

Winning that international audience may mean tying a Chinese story to a Hollywood face.

Zhang's newest project, a film to depict wartime Nanjing under Japanese occupation, will mark the first time a domestically-funded Chinese movie has placed a Hollywood actor -- Christian Bale -- in a leading role, producers told a news conference in Beijing Wednesday.

"The strategy for China's film industry is to go abroad. It is a goal for the future and matches China's fast development," Zhang said at the unveiling of Bale as the leading man in the film, currently titled in English, "Thirteen Women of Nanjing."

The movie, set to begin filming in Nanjing, formerly known as Nanking, in early January, is based on a book by Yan Geling, depicting a religious man (Bale) who attempts to save a group of young women forced into prostitution at by the Japanese army.

"I think anyone who is doing artistic work has the responsibility for cultural exchange," Zhang said.

"We (China) have done many Nanjing-related films, but many of them were directed inwardly, and young people in the West may not know them. So we hope we can make a good film and more young people in foreign countries will see it," he added.

China's movie industry is not alone in wanting to expand its audience. The government -- from the State Council, or cabinet, to the Ministry of Culture -- has had its hand in promoting China's cultural footprint around the world.   Continued...