BEIJING — A Chinese World War II epic featuring Hollywood A-listers Bruce Willis and Adrien Brody has been shelved after co-star Fan Bingbing was targeted by authorities for tax evasion, local media reported.
Fan is one of China’s most high-profile celebrities, and has appeared in blockbusters X-Men: Days of Future Past and the Chinese version of Iron Man 3. But the 36-year-old megastar disappeared from the public eye for months this year, fuelling speculation that she was being investigated in her home country.
She has since apologised and been ordered to pay nearly US$130 million in back taxes and fines, the official Xinhua news agency reported on October 3. Her latest film, by Chinese director Xiao Feng, was due to open next week.
But Xiao wrote on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform on Wednesday that it was "time to let go" of his latest feature "Air Strike" after eight years of work, though he added that "letting go is not giving up".
Xiao, who apologised to the film’s distribution companies and fans, did not say if or when the movie’s debut would be rescheduled. State-run media Global Times also posted on Weibo on Wednesday that the movie had been "cancelled without explanation". Beijing News and news website Sina, citing unnamed sources from film promotion firms, also reported the cancellation.
The halting of Air Strike comes as China’s film industry faces a broader reckoning from tax authorities. Celebrity TV host Cui Yongyuan -- who leaked Fan’s movie contract documents earlier this year -- called Air Strike a "huge fraud" after the actress apologised, without elaborating.
Xinhua has reported that authorities have declared a wider crackdown on the entertainment industry, with offenders given an amnesty until December 31 to pay any taxes they owe.
The tax scandal has put a spotlight on the alleged use of "yin and yang" dual contracts in China, in which people sign one document for income declared to tax authorities and a second one is kept secret. — AFP