Award-winning Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou [Hero] will be shooting his next project Nanjing Heroes in January with Christian Bale starring as a priest caught up in the brutal 1937 invasion and pillaging of the Chinese capitol by Japanese troops. The controversial film is based on Chinese author Yan Geling's novel The 13 Women of Nanjing, which tells the story of 13 prostitutes who stepped in for female university students who were to be taken as escorts for the troops during the period when nearly 20,000 women and girls were raped and killed by the Japanese troops.
The horrifying wartime atrocities known as the "Rape of Nanking" has previously been told in recent films like the documentary Nanking, Florian Gallenberger's drama John Rabe and the controversial Chinese blockbuster City of Life and Death. Zhang's film will pull in the Hollywood effects team behind Saving Private Ryan and The Dark Night. Bale's plays a Catholic priest who shelters a group of prostitutes and female students in his church during the invasion. Zhang said that he chose Bale for "his versatility and dedication to his roles" Bale has never been one to make conventional career choices. The actor dropped 75 pounds to play an insomniac in The Machinist, then turned around to pack on 90 pounds to play a superhero in a blockbuster like Batman Begins. The actor has already done an impressive amount of research into the history of the massacre, something that greatly moved the filmmaker. Director Zhang's $90 million production is set for a global release in December 2011.