HONG KONG – John Woo is preparing to introduce his first Chinese-language film in 16 years to foreign audiences after the historical epic proved a massive success in Asia.
The Hong Kong native said Tuesday he has finished editing an international version of "Red Cliff" and is offering it to American distributors. It has already been picked up in Europe and South America.
The $80 million epic, based on an ancient Chinese battle, was split into two installments lasting a combined five hours for Asia, but a single movie lasting two hours and 25 minutes has been prepared for audiences elsewhere.
"For Western viewers, watching a foreign-language movie and reading subtitles is very tough," Woo said.
The war epic is set in the Three Kingdoms historical period, which Woo said is familiar to Asian audiences.
The first installment of the "Red Cliff" project was a big hit when it was released across Asia in July, earning more than $100 million thanks to a $50 million performance in Japan and $47 million earned in mainland China.
In South Korea, it drew more than 1.6 million viewers — about 130,000 more than the Batman sequel "The Dark Knight."
The second installment will debut in China on Thursday and across the rest of the continent later this month.
Woo said the international version of "Red Cliff" focuses on the main characters and eliminates peripheral ones. But, he says, both Asian and Western versions are more down-to-earth than their contemporary Asian rivals, concentrating on grounded battle scenes over far-fetched gravity-defying kung fu fighting sequences.
"I wanted to make Asian audiences feel it's a familiar story but also make Western audiences feel they're watching a love story like 'Troy' or an Asian version of 'Gladiator,'" Woo said.
Woo also said he will start shooting another Chinese-language film, "1949," later this year.