SHANGHAI, Jun 5 -- HONG Kong pop star Leon Lai has been cast as Mei Lanfang in Chinese director Chen Kaige's upcoming movie about the late Peking Opera star, a production official said today.
Lai will appear in the US$15 million movie, "Mei Lanfang," alongside Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, said Isabella Ho, the official at Taiwan's CMC Entertainment.
Zhang, whose credits include "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Memoirs of a Geisha," said in a recent interview with a Hong Kong magazine she will play one of Mei's fellow Peking Opera singers.
Born in 1894, Mei was known for developing the performance of female characters in Chinese opera and was a pioneer in promoting Peking Opera abroad, touring Japan, the US and the Soviet Union. He died in 1961.
Ho said shooting on the co-production with China's state-run China Film Group will start in July. Filming will mainly take place in Beijing and is to take about six months to complete.
Chen's new movie marks his return to the genre of Peking Opera. Chen's "Farewell My Concubine," about the homosexual relationship between two Peking Opera stars, won the Golden Palm award at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival and two Oscar nominations in 1994.
Lai was one of Hong Kong pop music's Four Heavenly Kings in the 1990s, but has also made his mark as an actor. He won best actor at Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards in 2002 for his performance in the horror film "3 Extremes II."