Chinese Director Zhang Yimou Sues Ex-Production Partner for $2.5 Million

Zhang Yimou
Joe Pugliese

The lawsuit against Zhang Weiping's Beijing New Picture Film Co. comes after a sour end to a long-term collaboration.

Chinese director Zhang Yimou, who is currently working on his first English-language film The Great Wall with Matt Damon and Willem Dafoe, has sued a production company for $2.5 million in distribution money he says he is owed for one of his movies.

The lawsuit relates to the bitter end of Zhang's 15-year partnership with his longtime investor and producer Zhang Weiping (no relation), who owns Beijing New Picture Film Co. The two reportedly split after the Christian Bale-starring Flowers of War failed to perform at the box office.

Zhang Weiping subsequently became creative director of LeVision Pictures. The Great Wall is a co-production between Legendary, China Film Group and LeVision. The fantasy film, which is being touted as the biggest film ever shot entirely in China for global distribution, centers on an elite force making a last stand for humanity on the iconic Great Wall of China. Shooting is due to finish in August. The global release date is Nov. 23, 2016.

In the lawsuit, Zhang Yimou's lawyers are arguing in Beijing Chaoyang District Court that the director had yet to receive his share of the money from his 2009 film A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop, which is an adaptation of the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple.

The defendant argued that payments of $2.02 million from the distribution of A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop were made to Zhang's wife, Chen Ting, in 13 installments and asked the court to overrule the director's claims.

Zhang's lawyers said the sums paid were the director's salary for directing five films, including Hero and House of Flying Daggers. Zhang did not attend the hearing, China Daily reported. The court did not give a specific date for when it expects to release the judgment.