Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao Hsien downplayed speculation that the $14.5m martial arts drama, which stars Japan’s Satoshi Tsumabuki along with Chang Chen, would be effected by Japan-China political tension.

Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien has announced that his long-awaited martial arts film The Assassin will start shooting in October in mainland China, Taiwan and Japan.

Speaking to Taiwanese press, Hou said the film would cost $14.15m, which would be his biggest production to date. Half of the funding is coming from Sil-Metropole Organization, a Hong Kong-based studio that has mainland China co-production status, and half from Hou’s 3H Productions. 

The film will be Hou’s first Taiwan-China co-production aimed at mainland China as well as the international market. The cast will include Shu Qi, Chang Chen, Japanese actor Satoshi Tsumabuki and Taiwanese actors Jack Kao and Nikki Hsieh.  

Hou refused the connect the absence of Satoshi Tsumabuki from the Taipei press conference with the recent tension between China and Japan, which has already delayed China-Japan co-productions such as Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 1905.

“Film is film; film has its own domain,” Hou told Taiwanese press. But Hou admitted that Tsumabuki would not appear on the China set in Oct. 

Hou has already completed a small part of the shooting in Japan two years ago with Satoshi Tsumabuki. “We will deal with the footage later… if there is a problem, we will handle it,” he said.

Hou’s 3H Productions has so far secured Taiwan’s Central Motion Pictures Corporation (CMPC) as an investor and is in talks with companies in Japan and France for investment and distribution deals.

Set in the Tang Dynasty, the story revolves about a young woman who is secretly trained by a Taoist nun to become a ruthless assassin but is then asked to kill her lover.

Shooting will start on Oct 20 in Wutan Mountain of China’s Hubei province, where Hou said he would announce the mainland China cast. The crew will then shoot in Kyoto, Japan and Taiwan’s Taipei and Yilan county. Production is scheduled to wrap in April 2013, while the release date is yet to be confirmed.

As his 20th directorial work and his first attempt at the martial arts genre, The Assassin recruits Hou’s long-term production professionals. The script is again co-written by Hou and author Chu Tian-wen; Mark Lee Ping-bin will be DoP and Liao Ching-sung serves as producer and editor. Huang Wen-ying will be art director of the film.