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Film marks duo’s first project together in 18 years

By Jonathan Landreth

BUSAN, South Korea — Jet Li will star in director Tsui Hark’s “The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate,” the $35 million, 3D remake of a martial arts classic that began shooting outside Beijing on Sunday, an executive from Bona International Film Group said at the Pusan International Film Festival.

“This is a great story that we’ve not made official ‘til now: Jet Li and Tsui Hark are together again,” Jeffrey Chan, Beijing-based Bona’s COO, told The Hollywood Reporter on the sidelines of the largest film business gathering in the region.

Li and Tsui, a veteran Hong Kong director and producer, helped make each other famous on early 1990s films such as “Once Upon a Time in China.”

Li recently starred with Sylvester Stallone in “The Expendables,” and Tsui is the director of China’s current box office leader, “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame.”

Their reunion after 18 years is inspired by the 1967 classic “Dragon Gate Inn,” by Hong Kong- and Taiwan based director King Hu. That film took martial arts movies to new heights and is said to have inspired films such as Zhang Yimou’s “House of Flying Daggers” and Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” the most successful Chinese-language film export of all time.

In 1992, Tsui produced an earlier remake of “Dragon Gate Inn,” starring Tony Leung, Brigitte Lin, Maggie Cheung and Donnie Yen in a 2D production.

In Tsui’s latest remake, set to finish in time for a Christmas 2011 release, Li plays a Ming Dynasty general battling a power-hungry eunuch played by Chen Kun. Their contest comes to a head at an inn run by actress Zhou Xun. In 2008, both Chen and Zhou starred in director Gordon Chan’s popular “Painted Skin.” The film also stars Taiwan actress Gui Lunmei, who played opposite Li in the 2010 film “Ocean’s Heaven,” the opener for this year’s Shanghai International Film festival.

Bona is the lead investor in the remake, also backed by the state-run China Film Group, the Oriental Media Group (led by Li Ruigang of the Shanghai Media Group), Showtime of Hunan Province, and Nasdaq-listed Shanda, one of China’s biggest online games operators.

Shooting began on Sunday in the desert about two hours from Beijing, a place where Jet Li starred in director Rob Cohen’s Hollywood blockbuster “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.”