If you've ever seen a film by Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien, you might not initially think of him to direct an action movie, even of the slower, more poetic wuxia genre that includes films like Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Zhang Yimou's Hero and other recent works. But the master director has long confessed in interviews that he'd like to make a martial arts picture, and even as far back as 2002, Hou was attached to helm an adaptation of Pei Xing's 9th century fantasy novel "Nie Yin Niang," about a female assassin, which was then reportedly titled Xia Nü.

Six years later, following his first non-Taiwanese film (the Ozu tribute Café Lumiere), the triptych Three Times and his first Western project (Flight of the Red Balloon), Hou seems to finally be on track to making his wuxia dreams come true. Variety reports that his adaptation of "Nie Yin Niang," now titled The Assassin (or maybe The Hidden Heroine, or simply Nie Yin Niang), has received funding from the Taiwanese government's National Development Fund and is therefore moving forward with a pre-production start date of October 1 and shooting expected to begin in early 2009.

Taiwanese actress Shu Qi, who starred in The Transporter and Hou's Three Times and Millenium Mambo and was linked to the film in 2002, is still expected to play the lead, as is her Three Times costar Chang Chen. Though probably still Hou's biggest budgeted film yet, The Assassin has dropped down in scale from $12 million to $8.65 million, putting it well below the costs of other recent crossover wuxia films, such as Hero, which reportedly cost $30 million, and John Woo's new Chinese epic, The Battle of Red Cliff, which is currently the highest-budgeted Asian film at $80 million.

After receiving $2.6 million from the NDF and $480,000 from the Government Information Office, Hou's film still appears to need a substantial boost in funding to reach its budget. Hopefully he'll get it soon, because I'm dying to see what a Hou-directed martial arts film looks like.