Mel Gibson, other Hollywood directors look to China market

Add Mel Gibson to the list of Hollywood stars hopping on the China film bandwagon.

The actor and Oscar-winning director of “Braveheart” has signed on as a consultant on “The Bombing,” a World War II epic currently filming in eastern China. Bruce Willis has a role in the movie, which is slated for a spring 2016 release, and producers say they are on the verge of casting another prominent Hollywood actor in the movie, which centers on Japanese air raids on the city of Chongqing.

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Shooting has already begun near the eastern city of Ningbo; the film’s Chinese producers said Gibson would travel to China next month and serve as “supervisor of direction.” “The Bombing” is directed by Xiao Feng and will feature Hong Kong actors Nicholas Tse and William Chan, along with South Korea’s Song Seung-heon.

Besides Gibson, several other Oscar winners, including 85-year-old cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (“Close Encounters of the Third Kind”) and sound editor Richard L. Anderson (who received a special Academy Award for “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) have also been recruited as advisors on the movie.

Gibson will travel to China before heading to Australia for pre-production work on his next directorial effort, “Hacksaw Ridge,” said his publicist, Alan Nierob. "Hacksaw" too is a World War II-era story, starring Andrew Garfield as a medic and conscientious objector who was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Shi Jianxiang, the primary investor on the project, said he was plowing about $56 million into the production. Gibson was invited to participate because he is “resourceful and smart,” is “very interested in that piece of history” and “proposed many ideas we appreciate,” said Shi, who is chairman of the board of Shanghai Kuailu Investment Group. 

Gibson’s name will no doubt be used to help market the film in China; he is well known here for “Braveheart” and numerous other movies. Producers are also hoping to secure international distribution for “The Bombing,” though no deals have yet been made.

An increasing number of Hollywood directors are attaching themselves to Chinese productions. “Fast & Furious 6” director Justin Lin served as producer and writer on “Hollywood Adventures,” a $30-million Chinese comedy set in Los Angeles that hit mainland theaters on Friday.

Last week, “Twilight” director Catherine Hardwicke announced in Beijing that she had signed on to direct “Loulan,” a historical romantic epic set in what is now western China. That film is a U.S.-China co-production backed by Village Roadshow Pictures Asia.

Nicole Liu in the Times Beijing bureau contributed to this report.

Follow @JulieMakLAT for news from China

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