According to producer Terence Chang, the reason for the sudden withdrawal was that completion bond company CineFinance would not approve the terms raised by Chow.
It is the second time that the highly-anticipated production has changed leading cast members. In March, Tony Leung Chiu-wai resigned from playing the role of Zhuge Liang due to scheduling conflicts during the film's six-month shoot.
'The agreement raised by Chow's attorney was too unreasonable, and the bond company refused to sign it,' Chang told Screen International. 'The director and I were extremely disappointed that it happened.'
Chow's withdrawal was unexpected due to the close working relationship between the actor and Woo and Chang's Lion Rock Productions. The two parties worked closely together in Woo's Hong Kong action films of the 1980s, as well as during Chow's early development in Hollywood.
Chow earlier told Chinese media that he resigned from the lead character of Zhou Yu because he received the script only last week and felt he would not do justice to the role in such a short time.
Chow also expressed that the requests in the agreement were based on Hollywood practice. But Terence Chang refuted this: 'There were so many unreasonable requests that are unseen in any Hollywood contract.' Chang declined to reveal details about Chow's requests.
The replacement for the Zhou Yu character will be decided in the next two days, according to Chang. A source from China Film Group said it will be decided among Hong Kong actors Andy Lau, Daniel Wu and Tony Leung Ka-fai and Chinese actor Xia Yu.
Red Cliff marks John Woo's come-back to Chinese-language films after many years making Hollywood productions. Billed as the biggest production ever in the history of Chinese films, it is currently financed by China Film Group, Japan's Avex Entertainment and Taiwan's CMC Entertainment among other parties. International sales are handled by Summit Entertainment.