Update on John Woo’s The Battle of Red Cliff

Haven’t heard a whole lot from John Woo’s Chinese action epic “The Battle of Red Cliff” (although the title seems to have been shortened to just “Red Cliff”), and besides some stories about the film’s ever-changing rotation of lead actors (Chow Yun Fat was in, then he was out, and Tony Leung was out, and now he’s back in — huh?), I haven’t seen any pictures from the set at all. Which is strange. Either the guys making “Red Cliff” are really dropping the ball when it comes to promoting their movie, or they just don’t know what they’re doing out there. It’s called “generating buzz”, guys, get with the program. In any case, Variety finally has some updates on the movie, and it sounds like things are moving according to plan. Or at least, that’s what they say.

The John Woo-helmed “Red Cliff,” Asia’s biggest movie production ever — and one of its most beleaguered — plans to wrap on schedule. But a lot of challenges still lie ahead for the pic, securing North American distribution and living up to the high expectations of the Chinese government among them.

Extremes of weather have taken an epic toll. Shooting in the dry summer heat was a challenge in the northern China desert locations, while torrential rains washed away part of an outdoor set for the film in Hebei.

“Things are doing fine. We’ve still got about a month to shoot; we expect to wrap end of October, maybe mid-November,” Chang said.

The screenplay by Woo Chan Khan, Guo Zheng and Sheng Heyu is for a four-hour film. For Asian territories, pic is to be split into two parts, with the first skedded for release in July and the second in December 2008.

In case you missed that last part, Variety says the movie will be chopped up into two parts ala “Kill Bill” for Asian release. I’m guessing they’ll edit it down to a tenable length for international markets. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. Didn’t the same thing happen with Tsui Hark’s recent (and nearly incomprehensible) “Seven Swords” Chinese pic?

John Woo