As China's film market is being ignited by the Chinese Special Forces operative film "Wolf Warrior 2", another air force blockbuster is set for September release.
"Sky Hunter", directed by actor Li Chen and with a stellar cast including himself, Fan Bingbing, Wang Qianyuan and Li Jiahang, held its first press conference at the remote China Aviation Museum in the Beijing suburbs on Wednesday, with guests and collaborators from Chinese air force attending.
Li is a fan of the military so little wonder he agreed to handle the first ever modern air force action movie in Chinese film history. From the preparation, early creative works to post-production, the 200 million-yuan budget film got full support from the Chinese air force, including sending dozens of its own experts, equipment and trainers to assist the film crew.
To help the film obtain firsthand and real images and pictures of what the Chinese air force is like today, the military authorities opened several of its bases to the film crew to shoot various scenes.
They even agreed to fly the most advanced Chinese fighter jets, including the J-20, the stealth twinjet fifth-generation fighter; the Y-20, Chinese large military transport aircraft; the J-10C, the lightweight multi-role fighter; and the J-11B, single-seat twin-engine jet fighter. Previously such aircraft were only displayed at military parades.
To fully hold down the cost, Li Chen and his girlfriend, China's A-list actress Fan Bingbing, were even willing to accept no remuneration for the film, said producer Lyu Jianmin, chairman of Chunqiu Time Culture Co. Ltd.
"I didn't have money to hire any other actress," Li Chen told the press conference, "so I asked Bingbing to help for free, because most of the film's budget should be spent on production and special effects."
Fan Bingbing, playing a military helicopter pilot, said she agreed to help her boyfriend to fulfill his military dream; however, later she found she had been "cheated" a little. She explained: "I thought my role might only involve two scenes and I was just making a cameo appearance; actually I was recruited as the leading role."
Still, Fan didn't mind, as she said she was super excited to join the cast and thrilled to intimately experience real Chinese fighter jets.
Senior Colonel Chen Hao, general producer and deputy director of the air force publicity bureau, complimented Li Chen on the way he had transformed himself from an actor to a director, as well as from the son of a military officer to a quasi-air force officer, and even a quasi-military expert.
The "Sky Hunter" screen writer and military film producer, air force Lieutenant Colonel Zhang Li, said the film grew out of the air force's front line combat readiness training and showed the recent years of developing new weapons, as well as the achievements of the 400,000 air force soldiers and officers. “This film certainly represents a milestone," he said.
The film tells the story of how the elite Chinese air force destroys a terrorist plot and resolves a hostage crisis. Shooting took more than a year in dozens of places in China and Kazakhstan and will "present the visual images of Chinese modern air force that people have never seen before," according to its press release.
It will debut in Chinese theaters on Sept. 30.