- Associated Press - Thursday, June 23, 2011

HONG KONG (AP) - He’s tackled rural drama, kung fu choreography and period epic over a 23-year career that has made him Chinese cinema’s top names. But Zhang Yimou says his recent production starring Christian Bale has been one of his toughest.

Zhang finished shooting his adaptation of the Yan Geling novel “The 13 Women of Nanjing” at a studio near the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing on Wednesday. He said in a statement issued by his production company that it was one of his most grueling shoots ever.

While the shoot for his 2002 kung fu picture “Hero” also lasted 5 1/2 months, that production allowed him to crisscross the country for different locations.

“This movie was based in (the Nanjing county) Lishui. It’s been a great imposition on everyone to slave away for 5 1/2 months in confined surroundings. I thank everyone,” Zhang was quoted as saying in the statement.

“13 Women” is about 13 sex workers in Nanjing who volunteered to replace university students as escorts for invading Japanese soldiers in the World War II era. The temporary English title for Zhang’s adaptation was earlier announced as “Nanjing Heroes” but has not been finalized. Oscar winner Bale plays an American priest.

The $90 million production, which is scheduled to be released Dec. 16, was a 164-day shoot and averaged 18-hour working days, Zhang’s production company said.

Working with an international team including Bale and veteran Hollywood special effects expert Joss Williams, one of Zhang’s cultural adjustments was yelling “action” and “cut” in English instead of Chinese, the statement said.

Zhang’s credits also include “Red Sorghum,” “Ju Dou,” Raise the Red Lantern” and “The Story of Qiu Ju.” His most recent release is last year’s romance “Under the Hawthorn Tree.”

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