Pretty much all the Oscar contenders are out of the gate and jockeying for position, but one film that still remains an unknown quantity is Zhang Yimou's "The Flowers of War" starring Christian Bale. The expensive Chinese production that splits the language duties between English and Mandarin, has been earning its fair share of buzz, but mostly around the unusual situation of a major Hollywood star stepping into a foreign film. But a recent profile on the film in THR reveals it was none other than Steven Spielberg who championed his "Empire of the Sun" star to Zhang.
The director and his producing partner, Zhang Weiping, were looking for a Western actor for the lead role, they knew Bale was already becoming a big star in China, and they caught the actor's latest work on a bootlegged copy of "The Fighter." Though Zhang wishes he had seen a proper version of the movie before he had wrapped production. "I regret that I didn't see 'The Fighter' with the good subtitles the first time. Your performance was so good, I would have added more scenes for you in 'Flowers of War,' " Zhang told Bale.
The film itself is based on Geling Yan's novel, "The 13 Women of Nanjing," and focuses on the Nanjing Massacre in 1937, when thousands of inhabitants of the then-capital Nanjing were murdered by invading Japanese troops. Christian Bale plays an American who disguises himself as a priest named John and shelters prostitutes and students at an all-girls school during the attack. It's some difficult subject matter, but perhaps most suprising of all is that the notoriously censorship-heavy Chinese government actually threw their weight behind the film. "Topics about foreigners, about religion and about World War II are not well-received by the government, but because this movie is about who we are as humans, and what we would do to save other people, the government actually supported it," Zhang said.
As for Bale, the allure of doing something outside the comfort of the Hollywood system was all that was need to get him to sign on. "Some people scratched their heads when I told them I wanted to do the project and said, 'Really, why?' I don't understand that sort of thinking," said Bale. "I like the adventure aspect of making movies, so the opportunity to work in China, not on an American movie, but on a Chinese movie, really appealed to me. How many times do you get that sort of opportunity, and on top of that, get to work with a fantastic director? It was a no-brainer."
"The Flowers of War" opens on December 16th in China, while stateside, Wrekin Hill will open the film in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco for a on week qualifying run on December 23rd. A wider release will follow in 2012. Posters and images from the film below. [RecentMoviePosters/Mtime]