John Woo Eyeing Liam Neeson for Flying Tigers


In an article at The Hollywood Reporter talking about how director John Woo is working with the Creative Artists Agency and IMAX to super-size his $90 million, 1940s bilingual aerial battle epic movie Flying Tigers, Woo mentions who he’s interested in for the lead role.

Flying Tigers is based on the volunteer fighter squadron formed to help the Chinese fight the Japanese before the U.S. entered World War II. The film will tell the story of the special team set up by Lieutenant General Claire Chennault in Yunnan Province and how it fought against the Japanese Air Force in Myanmar and South-West China.

Woo said he had a CAA client in mind when mulling who should play the lead role of U.S. Army Air Corp Lt. Gen. Claire Lee Chennault — the contentious American officer whose volunteer Flying Tigers squadron trained the first generation of Chinese fighter pilots taking on Japan in WWII.

“It’s got to be a star but it’s hard to find the right one, because at that time Chennault was almost 50 years old. Ideally, I’ve been thinking of Liam Neeson as the title actor,” Woo said. CAA confirmed it represents Neeson but declined comment on “Flying Tigers.”

The trade adds that playing opposite to Chennault will be a young Chinese actor in the role of a pilot in training. For that role, Woo mentioned someone like Liu Ye (City of Life and Death).

Woo is co-writing the Flying Tigers script with Chris Chow. Shooting is scheduled to start in the spring for a planned late 2011 release.

UPDATE: Here is the official announcement on the IMAX release:

IMAX Corporation today announced that internationally acclaimed director John Woo and producer Terence Chang’s next film, the action epic Flying Tigers, is set to be digitally re-mastered into The IMAX Experience(R). Woo and Chang are the director/producer team behind Mission Impossible II; Face/Off: Red Cliff 1 & 2 and many other international blockbusters. Upon being green lit for production, the film would mark an important new filmmaker relationship for IMAX and would be the second announced Chinese film to be released in IMAX’s format. Flying Tigers will be a Hollywood-China joint production with China Film Group as the lead Chinese financier, and shooting is expected to begin in spring 2011.

“It has always been a dream of mine to explore shooting with IMAX cameras and to work in the IMAX format, and the strong visual element of this film is incredibly well-suited to the tastes of cinemagoers today,” said director John Woo. “Using IMAX for Flying Tigers would create a new experience for the audience, and I think it would be another breakthrough for Chinese movies.”

China Film Group Chairman Han Sanping stated: “As China’s largest film development, production and distribution company, CFG has been involved with Terence Chang, John Woo and Flying Tigers since the earliest stages of its development. We expect this to be the most important film for China Film Group in 2011. The combination of John Woo, Terence Chang, China Film Group and IMAX will enable this film to attract the widest possible local audience, while also presenting the charm and diversity of Chinese films for fans around the globe.”

“Establishing relationships with top filmmakers remains an important part of IMAX’s growth strategy in China, and today’s announcement builds on the momentum created by our recent box office success in that market,” said IMAX CEO Richard L. Gelfond. “It would be an honor for us to welcome John Woo and Terence Chang into the world of IMAX and to work closely with them to produce and market a Chinese title that we believe will resonate with IMAX audiences.”

“We have always believed that John Woo and IMAX would be an ideal fit,” added Greg Foster, Chairman and President, IMAX Filmed Entertainment. “John Woo and Terence Chang have been enthusiastically integrating the IMAX format into Flying Tigers to ensure the story is told in a way that takes advantage of the unique qualities of The IMAX Experience. When a talented director and producer incorporate IMAX into the fabric of their storytelling, you have a winning combination that creates an incredibly visceral movie experience. We’re very excited about introducing this combination to moviegoers with Flying Tigers.”