Fan Bingbing movie co-starring Bruce Willis cancelled following actress' tax scandal

BEIJING - China's most famous actress Fan Bingbing may have been spotted in public for the first time in more than three months, but a movie linked to her tax-evasion case may not see daylight.

The 37-year-old actress was ordered to pay more than 800 million yuan (S$158 million) in overdue taxes and fines earlier this month, after an investigation by the Chinese tax authorities found that she had split her contract to evade taxes of 7.3 million yuan over payments for her role in Air Strike, according to Xinhua news agency.

The movie, based on the Japanese bombings of Chinese city Chongqing during World War II, was originally scheduled to be released on Aug 17.

However, the distributor announced then that its release in China would be moved to Oct 26 to coincide with the global release.

The announcement in August came amid the height of Fan's high-profile disappearance, when she was involved in the storm over her alleged inking of the so-called "yin-and-yang contracts" in a bid to avoid paying more taxes.

Ironically, Fan has only a small role in Air Strike, even though her name was placed prominently in the original movie poster.

Her name was later removed from the poster of the movie, which is also known as Unbreakable Spirit.

However, the movie boasted a star-studded cast, including Chinese actor Liu Ye, American actor Bruce Willis and South Korean actor Song Seung-heon.

There were also special appearances by American actor Adrien Brody and Hong Kong stars such as Nicholas Tse, Eric Tsang and Simon Yam.

American actor-director Mel Gibson, who directed critically acclaimed war movie Hacksaw Ridge (2016), served as art director for the film.

In a sign of things to come, Air Strike director Xiao Feng updated a post on Weibo, China's version of Twitter, on Wednesday, but with no information like the date of the movie's release.

Instead, he wrote: "No amount of facts will help, no amount of innocence can stop the smearing, no amount of efforts can avoid the break-off, it's time to let go."

Sina Entertainment website confirmed later that plans to screen the movie have been dropped.

In the same Weibo post, Xiao apologised to followers who have been waiting for the movie's release, as he lamented the canning of his work which has been eight years in the making.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.