Christian Bale has been cast in Chinese director Zhang Yimou’s latest film, the story of a priest caught in the Chinese city of Nanjing during the time of its occupation by the invading Japanese during World War Two known as “The Rape of Nanjing.”
The film, Nanjing Heroes, will be based on Chinese writer Yan Geling’s novel The Thirteen Women Of Nanjing about 13 prostitutes who volunteer to replace female university students who had been forced by the Japanese to have sex with the invading soldiers. It was a practice where the invading Imperial Japanese Army forced native women to be raped repeatedly by soldiers. These women were known by the disquieting euphemism of “comfort women.” The atrocities carried out by the Japanese exceeded even this, and by the time the six week occupation of the city was over in January 1938, some hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians and soldiers had been killed and between 20,000 and 80,000 women had been raped by Japanese soldiers.
Bale will play a priest running a church in the war torn city which provides shelter to the young women. His casting is Yimou’s attempt to bring the cache of Hollywood star to his film to hopefully get it distributed wider than a Chinese film, even one from as well known director as Yimou, would get.
The 600 million yuan ($90.2 million) production starts next month in China with the hope that Nanjing Heroes will be in theaters this time next year. The screenplay is being written by Yan and Liu Heng, who wrote Yimou’s controversial 1990 film Ju Dou.