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Zhang Summons Troops for 'Autumn'

BEIJING (THR) -- Coming off the quiet "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles," director Zhang Yimou will use 20,000 Chinese soldiers as extras when he begins shooting "Autumn Remembrance" in February, producers said.

For a Chinese film, the budget also is super-sized at 360 million yuan ($44 million), topping the $30 million spent by director Chen Kaige on "Master of the Crimson Armor," China's official submission for the upcoming Academy Awards and the most expensive Chinese film made to date.

To be co-produced by Hong Kong hitmaker Bill Kong ("House of Flying Daggers," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), "Remembrance" will star Chow Yun-Fat. Negotiations with Gong Li for another key role are under way.

The film marks the first collaboration between Zhang and Gong since "Shanghai Triad" in 1995.

"Remembrance" takes its Chinese title, "Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia," (The city is filled with golden armor) from a poem written by the leader of a peasant uprising in the late Tang dynasty (A.D. 618-906), New Pictures Film Co. general manager Yu Yuxin said.

"The title was chosen for its splendor, but the poem has little to do with the story," she said, declining to reveal details about what is said to be the tale of an ill-fated court romance.

Qin Lixin, New Pictures deputy general manager, said that China's Film Bureau has approved the script and shooting will begin in southwest China's Sichuan Province by the end of February.

The soldiers from China's People's Liberation Army, the largest standing army in the world, won't step in front of the camera until the production moves to Yunnan and Zhejiang provinces, New Pictures president Zhang Weiping told Chinese Web portal

"We decided this would be the best way to manage such a huge cast, a first for a commercial picture in China," he said.

About 1,000 PLA extras were employed by Chen on "Crimson Armor," a film met by mixed reviews that saw its deal for international English-language distribution fall apart in December when the Weinstein Co. and IDG backed out of the deal they signed at Cannes in May.

Producer Zhang said that Gong has not yet signed her contract but said he was confident that she would because the script had been tailor-made for her for more than 10 years.

An unnamed Hollywood company has signed to help with the stunts, and postproduction will be done in Australia, producer Zhang said, adding that he expects "Remembrance" to outsell "Hero," the first Chinese film to top the U.S. boxoffice, earning $53 million in its 2004 run.

Jonathan Landreth writes for The Hollywood Reporter.

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