After an extensive promo tour of Asia, John Woo and his cast of Red Cliff (Chi Bi) made a final stop yesterday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. They had a meet-the-fans session in the spanking new cinema complex in the spanking new giant mall, Pavilion, where they were boisterously greeted by throngs of fans.
Woo was accompanied by Lin Chiling, Chang Chen and Zhang Fengyi. Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Takeshi Kaneshiro were unfortunately not able to make it on this leg of the tour. Earlier in the day, they held a press conference which was well attended, a sign that there is much interest in this film, the Asian comeback effort for Woo.
Woo was asked about the recent screening of the film in the earthquake zone of Sichuan, China, where doctors, nurses, the army and all involved in the rescue work were invited to walk the red carpet. He said the tragedy really affected him and the rescue efforts touched him deeply, so in future, he would like to put more emphasis on compassion and human kindness in his films.
Woo said he had waited more than 18 years to realise this dream project of his. The technological advances in the last few years have finally made it possible to bring it to the big screen. Certainly, it's a huge effort, and at US$80million, it's the most expensive Chinese-language film ever made. No Asian film has been made at this kind of scale, and anticipation is indeed high. The latest numbers reported by Variety is encouraging; the film has opened very well in Asia, with the biggest opening day ever for Taiwan. Red Cliff opens in Malaysia next Thursday.
Woo also said he decided on a single two-and-a-half-hour version for the west and a two-part release for Asia because distributors had advised him that western moviegoers do not really like to sit through too long a movie, especially a foreign-language one with subtitles. He said the story also has a lot of characters whose names sound almost similar, and he didn't want to confuse western audiences. He pointed out that the reason he wanted to make a film like this was to give westerners a better picture of Asian culture and history, because he feels that there's so much more of Asian culture that they haven't been given a glimpse of.
All eyes were naturally on supermodel and first-time actress Lin Chiling, dubbed the most beautiful woman in all of Taiwan. Her character, Xiao Qiao, is the wife of viceroy Zhou Yu, played by Tony Leung, and is dubbed the most beautiful woman in all of China. Lin is also called the Audrey Hepburn of Asia. Although it's her acting debut, Lin is already a famous TV host in Taiwan, and she first met Woo in 2005 when she hosted the Golden Horse Awards.