MAINLAND director Chen Kaige has run into serious trouble on the set of his follow-up to the Cannes Palme d'Or-winning Farewell My Concubine.
And it's a case of cherchez la femme. Chen has fired two actresses since production started on A Temptress Moon in September.
First to go was Taiwanese starlet Wang Ching-wing, who was axed after two months of shooting near Shanghai.
Since her forced departure at the end of October, production has been halted on the $31 million film, produced by Hsu Feng of Hong Kong's Tomson Films.
Then Hsu Feng came up with a replacement - mainland starlet Chen Hong. But after several days of tests and contractual complications, she got the boot too. Not surprisingly, the producers have turned to China's top female 'thesp' - the luminous Gong Li, who appeared in Farewell My Concubine.
Gong is in the middle of shooting Shanghai Triad for her partner, Zhang Yimou, the man who directed her in To Live, Raise the Red Lantern and Judou.
But it is understood that when she wraps up that $23 million film, which has itself run into some political problems, she will join Chen Kaige on A Temptress Moon.
As a footnote, the problems with Moon mean that Chen and Zhang, China's top 'fifth generation' directors, are no longer set for a showdown at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Shanghai Triad will probably still premiere in France, but it could be the end of the year before Moon is finished.