Fan Bingbing, Bruce Willis movie Air Strike cancelled in wake of Chinese star’s tax scandal

Mel Gibson-produced film canned after Chinese celebrity given US$129 million fine for tax evasion

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 October, 2018, 2:23pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 October, 2018, 9:26pm

The release of a new film starring Fan Bingbing has been cancelled in the wake of the tax scandal surrounding the Chinese actress.

The screening date of Air Strike had already been put back to October 26 due to the controversy but director Xiao Feng said on Wednesday it was “time to give up” and complained the film had been “smeared”.

Fan makes a special appearance in the film, also known as Unbreakable Spirit, which stars Bruce Willis, Adrien Brody, Chinese actor Liu Ye and Korean star Song Seung-heon.

The film, produced by Mel Gibson, is set during the second world war and tells the story of the Japanese bombing of Chongqing, the wartime capital.

It was originally due to be released on August 17, but was delayed after Chinese television host Cui Yongyuan leaked documents that showed Fan, China’s best-known actress, had been evading taxes.

The actress disappeared over the summer only to emerge earlier this month with a public apology for tax evasion.

China’s film industry grinds to a halt because of Fan Bingbing tax scandal

She has now been ordered to pay up to 884 million yuan (US$129 million) in unpaid taxes and fines.

Cui claimed the use of so-called yin-yang contracts, where one document shows the actor’s real earnings and another – showing a much lower figure – is given to the taxman are commonplace in the Chinese entertainment industry.

Fan only appeared in one scene in the film, according to National Business Daily, which said she had been paid 30 million yuan.

This is not the first time the film has been embroiled in scandal. In 2015, one of its main investors, the Shanghai Kuailu Investment Group was accused of fraud and illegal fundraising.

Last month 12 people went on trial accused of fraud in connection with the company’s operations, although the court has yet to announce a verdict.

Opinion: Fan Bingbing should thank her lucky stars – penalty could have been worse

The film lost its funding in the wake of the controversy, and only managed to complete post-production work after director Xiao raised the funds on his own.

The online reaction to the cancellation was mostly favourable, reflecting the popular mood against corruption in China.

One Weibo user wrote: “This is exactly what should have happened, I wouldn’t have watched it anyway.”

But a few expressed support for Xiao. “The director is not at fault here, and there’s nothing wrong with the film … the blame should be laid on capitalism and reality,” a person said.