Inspired by the Chinese classical novel Romance Of The Three Kingdoms, multiple award-winning Hong Kong director Mabel Cheung (The Soong Sisters, An Autumn's Tale) is putting together a project, Red Rose And White Rose, based on the story of two women caught up in male power plays.

The first is Princess Sun Yan, who is to be married off by her brother, the Emperor of Wu, to the Emperor of Shu. The other is Wang Shuan, a maid ordered by the Emperor of Wu to spy on his sister.

"In the novel, male characters are characterised as heroes with lengthy descriptions of their intelligence. Women are largely marginalised and remain faceless individuals," Cheung explains.

The project, written by Cheung's longtime scriptwriter-producer Alex Law has reportedly attracted interest from the US, UK, France, Korea and Japan. Zhon Xun, whose credits include Feng Xiaogang's The Bouquet and Peter Chan's Perhaps Love, is in talks to star.

Red Rose And White Rose is mainly set after the legendary battle of the Red Cliff. John Woo is shooting an epic account of that skirmish with a reported $75m budget, making Red Cliff the most expensive movie ever made in Asia. However, Cheung says she will use the conflict as a backdrop and not the main focus.

Cheung and Law's production company Electric Shadows is producing with Taiwan's Mega Harmonic Entertainment and Sky Films.

Cheung aims to start shooting as early as year-end in Sichuan, China.