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Nicolas Cage, Hayden Christensen to Begin 'Outcast' Chinese Shoot in April

Hayden Christensen Outcast PR - P 2012

Location scouting for Nick Powell’s Crusaders-in-China war movie has begun, with the co-production slated to open simultaneously worldwide in November 2013, says the project’s Chinese backers.

HONG KONG – Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen are set to depart for the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan in April to begin shooting the 12th century war romance Outcast, with its Chinese co-producers planning to release the film in the U.S. and China on the same day in November.

Speaking exclusively to The Hollywood Reporter after the project’s official launch in Beijing on Thursday, Yunnan Film Group president Alan Zhang Lun said the project's stellar cast justifies the same-day domestic and international release. “This could maximize its impact,” he said,

Christensen and Canadian helmer Nick Powell -- making his directorial debut here after a career manning stunts and second-unit shoots – were at the launch, with the latter departing for Yunnan on Nov. 18 for a weeklong scouting trip eyeing locations for the film, said Zhang.

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Based on a screenplay by James Dormer (who penned episodes of British TV series Spooks and Strike Back), Outcast revolves around two jaded Crusaders who chose to wander off toward the East, finally arriving in western China, where they become entangled in romance and antagonism with local royalty.

The film is to be made in English, Zhang said, and it will qualify as an official co-production under the guidelines stipulated by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), with Yunnan Film Group providing more than half of the undisclosed budget. The Australian-U.S. Arclight Films will be among the companies involved in the project, he added.

Official backing was certainly in full force at the Outcast launch last week, with Zhang, Powell, Christensen and Arclight CEO Gary Hamilton joined onstage by SARFT deputy director Zhang Pimin – whose remarks in August casting doubts on the “authenticity” of Sino-American film co-productions whipped up a massive debate about the future for such projects – and Zhang Hongsen, deputy director-general of SARFT’s Film Bureau.

In a separate interview, Powell told THR that he plans to bring “just a few people” from Canada for the shoot and will count on a crew made up “90 percent” of Chinese personnel. He had already met with local production and costume designers during his brief stay in Beijing last week as well as with local actors to discuss roles in the film.

Powell said he joined the project two years ago when producer Jeremy Bolt showed him a draft of the screenplay. “It was originally a genre film – but I was interested in the idea of a knight in China, [so] I had it rewritten to make it more than just a genre film. I want to make something more dramatic than just an action movie,” he said.

“I’m starting to set up a production company in China because there is unlimited potential here,” he added.