The image It made perfect sense: John Woo's return to Chinese-language cinema was to star Chow Yun-Fat, who last collaborated with the director on the Hong Kong action classic Hard Boiled. The new film (or films, as it might be too long for just one), titled The Battle of Red Cliff, is an historical war epic set in the year 208, and Chow was to play Zhou Yu, the chief strategist for the Kingdom of Wu. But Chow has just walked off the production, which has already begun shooting, and the actor and the producers have different interpretations of why he has left so abruptly.

According to Chow, his departure was due to his inability to prepare for the role; he claims he only last week received the script. Producer Terence Chang, on the other hand, says that Chow's demands were too high and that he walked because he didn't get what he wanted. The script handed to Chow last week was merely a revision to one the actor had been given last year. Another topic of conflict is Chow's salary. According to the actor, he took a pay cut and was being paid in installments. Chang says the actor was to be paid $5 million plus royalties.

Chow also pointed out that his contract followed the model he uses on Hollywood films and implied that Red Cliff's producers need to get used to the way things are done in Hollywood. As if abandoning the director who made him an international star wasn't enough, he had to go and confirm that he's now too important to go back to his roots. Of course, anyone familiar with Bulletproof Monk and Anna and the King can attest to Chow's true significance to Hollywood's audiences. Chow is now the third big name to be removed from Red Cliff; previously Ken Watanabe and Tony Leung were also involved, but each dropped out for different reasons. Anyway, if you were really dying to see another collaboration between Woo and Chow, there's always the new video game Stranglehold, which hits stores this summer.