Bale in The 13 Women in Nanjing
Hollywood star Christian Bale and China’s top movie director Zhang Yimou have teamed up in a movie production in China. In the midst of the shooting, Bale received a slew of awards, including an Oscar, for his role in "The Fighter."
Bale’s success certainly delighted his Chinese colleagues, who are betting on his stardom to boost box office performance of the new movie, "The 13 Women of Nanjing" (金陵十三钗), not just in China, but around the globe.
The movie is about 13 Chinese prostitutes’ struggle against Japanese invaders during the Nanjing Massacre in 1937. Bale is said to portray a westerner who was in the city and helped these women.
The budget for the movie set a new record for China’s movie industry, and a large portion of the over US$90 million budget goes to Bale’s pay check, Zhang Weiping, producer of the movie, told the Chinese media. Bale is paid about US$300,000 per day, Zhang said.
But Zhang Weiping said Bale, the latest Batman as in "The Dark Knight," will attract a huge number of audiences to go watch the new movie in theaters around the world. The movie will be shown in 150 countries and regions, Zhang told Chinese media.
“What we need to do is to let them [international market] open the door and welcome Chinese movies,” Zhang Weiping said. How? Zhang’s strategy is to stop being copycat of Hollywood productions, but to import Hollywood actors and techniques to the service of Chinese filmmaking.
So Bale was imported. The British actor has been called the most dynamic actor of his generation. His possession of charm and talent has brought him a huge fan base around the world. Even his recent F-bomb loaded lashing out at a co-worker on the set of Terminator Salvation did not seem to undermine his star power, but perhaps made him even hotter.
And the Chinese filmmakers can now afford someone like Bale. In 2010, box office gross in China exceeded 10 billion yuan (US$1.5 billion) for the first time. Chinese moviemakers in recent years have increasingly endeavored huge budget productions, such as John Woo’s "Red Cliff," which cost US$80 million, a record in 2008.
But being able to hire Bale does not mean Chinese moviemakers now have the same leverage as Hollywood. For Zhang Weiping and Zhang Yimou, pouring out so much money on one big star is still a huge gamble. If "The 13 Women" failed to do well in box office, the Chinese filmmakers will have to suffer the loss.
Bale, regardless, will emerge intact. As an A-list star in Hollywood, he has even bigger projects lined up, including another Batman movie to be released next summer. The new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," is going to have a budget of at least US$175 million, according to the Los Angeles Times. That is nearly double the cost of The 13 Women, and yet to set a Hollywood record.