Chow Yun-fat, the Hong Kong superstar who headed the cast of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is set to star in Waiting, a romantic drama set against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution. The film is to be directed by Peter Chan for his novice production company, Applause Pictures.

Waiting is based on the international best-selling novel of the same name by Ha Jin. Chow will play Lin Kong, an army doctor who struggles with an arranged marriage, but who is forced to wait 18 years before he can get a divorce and be with a woman he met during a forced military march. "This is a very Chinese kind of subject, but we will make it with a Hollywood studio-sized budget," said Allan Fung, co-CEO of Applause with Chan and director Teddy Chen. "Chow Yun-fat is attached, we are finalising his terms and casting the female lead."

Production is set to start in China and Mongolia in September or October. Published estimates of the budget pin the film at some $15m. Fung said that Applause is discussing the project with the offshoots of several US majors. "The timing is very much on our side. The interest in Asian films at the moment is huge. Trendy even."

Chow is also tipped to star in the Crouching Tiger prequel being put together by Good Machine and Taiwan's Salon Films and Bulletproof Monk, set to be produced by Terence Chang, John Woo and Michael Yanover and written by Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris.

Applause, set up in April last year, is now in the final stages of post-production on its first three pictures: The Marriage Certificate, a social comedy by Huang Jianxin; Jan Dara, an erotic drama by Nonzee Nimibutr, the director of Thai hit Nang Nak; and Kai Dan, a three-part ghost omnibus with segments filmed by Nimibutr, Teddy Chen and Kim Ji-woon, the Korean director of The Foul King.

Chan's credits include the English-language picture Love Letter, which he delivered in 1999 for DreamWorks SKG.