Hugh Jackman plucks 'Flower'

A-lister added as lead actress Zhang Ziyi exits

BEIJING -- During its first day of shooting in China, director Wayne Wang's "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" added Hugh Jackman just as it lost China's biggest actress, Zhang Ziyi.

Jackman will join the English-language drama at month's end at the Hengdian Studio outside Shanghai, local media reported Tuesday, calling his role the male lead. Jackman's publicist said that "at this point in time, he is doing an unbilled cameo."

In either case, it would be Jackman's first project in China, adding him to a growing list of Hollywood stars -- including most recently Kevin Spacey -- who are coming East to work in the world's fastest-growing movie market.

Meanwhile, Zhang's manager said the actress, who was to have co-produced the film set in rural 19th century China, dropped out "because of scheduling conflicts."

"Snow" was to have been Zhang's second film as a producer and first in partnership with producers Wendi Murdoch and Florence Sloan. Murdoch, born in China, is married to News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch; Sloan, who is Malaysian-Chinese, is married to MGM chairman Harry Sloan.

The film now will star Chinese actress Li Bingbing ("The Message") and South Korean actress Jeon Ji-Hyun ("Blood: The Last Vampire"), said Fergus Ryan, Li's project-development manager at Huayi Brothers Stars.

"The production will be moving to Shanghai next," Ryan said.

"Snow" -- also a first for Chinese-American director Wang, who never has shot a movie in China -- is based on the eponymous novel by Lisa See. The story, from a script by Wang and Michael Ray, revolves around the lifelong friendship of Lily and Snow Flower and their imprisonment by rigid cultural norms.

The project keeping Zhang busy is Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai's Jet Tone production "The Grand Master," which centers on martial artist Ip Man, Bruce Lee's legendary trainer. The film, now in production, stars Tony Leung Chiu Wai.

Separately, Zhang has been dogged lately by Chinese news reports alleging that she has not made good on $1 million in relief funds she promised after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.