Wong Kar-wai takes on Bruce Lee's trainer, while Jessica Chastain's hot streak continues.
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27 Apr 2012 - 2:51 PM  UPDATED 5 Nov 2012 - 8:33 PM

Wong Kar-wai began filming his next film, The Grandmaster, in December 2009, so obviously it's wrapped by now, hasn't it? Actually no, it hasn't. The demanding Hong Kong filmmaker, the perfectionist behind the likes of In the Mood for Love, Fallen Angels and 2046, is scheduled to do his final reshoots and inserts next month, with the film tentatively scheduled to release in mainland China on December 18, 2012. This is pretty much par for the course for Wong, who sometimes gives the impression that he doesn't finish a film so much as keep going until the film is finished with him. (There was a joke among Wong's crew on 2046 that the film's title was actually his intended finish date.)

Interest in The Grandmaster will be intense, as it follows the public misfire of My Blueberry Nights, Wong's 2007 English language, American-set road movie that found aimless uses for the likes of Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Rachel Weisz. With his forthcoming picture he's back working in Chinese, telling the story of Hong Kong martial arts master Yip Man, who trained Bruce Lee amongst others before dieing at the age of 79 in 1972. His life has already been the subject of several biopics, such as 2008's Ip Man, but while the teasers for The Grandmaster are purely stylised hand-to-hand combat (with fight choreography by the revered Yuen Woo-ping), it's difficult to believe Wong wouldn't explore more diverse ground.

Wong gravitates to actors used to his methods, so as Yip he's cast Tony Leung (Hero, 2046, Lust, Caution), while the supporting cast include two other actors who've worked with Wong before: Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2046) and Chen Chang (Happy Together, Red Cliff). After the charged atmosphere and romantic languor of his previous Chinese language movies this could be a major departure for Wong, who long ago confused audiences and critics with 1994's Ashes of Time, a wuxia (martial arts) picture that was infamously light on story and strong on metaphor.

Jessica Chastain had a remarkable 18 months where she went from being an unknown with a few television credits to being one of the leads in the likes of Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, John Madden's The Debt, Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus and Tate Taylor's The Help (and those are just the high profile roles). Nor does she appear to be slowing down, playing up her diversity even further with roles in Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty, the story of the U.S. army unit that pursued Osama bin Laden where her co-stars include Australians Joel Edgerton and Jason Clarke, and John Hillcoat's Depression-era moonshine crime tale Lawless, where she stars with Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Guy Pearce and Gary Oldman, and another Malick feature.

After that, possibly Iron Man 3, where she's in talks to play a scientist as smart as Robert Downey Jr's insouciant superhero Tony Stark. The cast for the latter, which will have to exist in the considerable shadow of this week's first-rate caped supergroup, The Avengers, has also added Ben Kingsley and the aforementioned Guy Pearce, who suddenly appears keen to be in everything.