Chinese filmmakers have signed Bruce Willis to a major role in a new World War II epic titled The Bombing, which is now in production, Variety reports.
According to the industry news site, China’s film industry is intent on using American partnerships to help its growing footprint, and filmmakers feel they have taken in a step in that direction by signing Willis.
Directed by Xiao Feng and set in 1943, The Bombing will explore the plight of the people of Chongqing after five years of Japanese aerial bombings. Willis will play the role of an American fighter pilot who volunteers to help the townspeople learn how to fly.
“We have an ancient culture with a long history and many stories, both fiction and non-fiction, to tell,” the film’s executive producer Yang Buting said. “America has a relatively short history but you have a much greater technology in film. So we are trying to take the history of China and meld it with the modern technology of America to make a modern film that is of the highest quality.”
Buting said Willis was selected because of his popularity with Chinese audiences, which are now second in size, only to the audiences of North America.
Additionally, working in China has always been something of interest to Willis; say his reps, as he understands the importance of films to succeed in the country, per Variety.
Bruce Willis is popular in China, where his films GI Joe: Retaliation and The Expendables 2 made $54 million and $53 million.
The actor now joins other western stars, such as John Cusack and Christian Bale, who have also made attempts at cross over success in the country.
Willis reportedly signed a contract last week, and flew into Shanghai Tuesday to shoot for eight days.
The state-operated China Film group and a slew of private investors have jointly funded the film.
It is scheduled to be in production until August, with a premiere at the end of 2015, which is designed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
The Bombing has a budget of $90 million, which makes it one of the most expensive chines films ever.