Taiwanese-Japanese star Takeshi Kaneshiro has replaced Tony Leung Chiu-wai in the cast of John Woo's upcoming military epic Red Cliff, after the Hong Kong actor had to quit the project due to scheduling conflicts.

In addition, Japanese star Shidou Nakamura, who recently appeared in Clint Eastwood's Letters From Iwo Jima, has joined the cast of the $75m production which is scheduled to start shooting on March 29 in and around Beijing.

Other previously announced cast, including Chow Yun-fat, Taiwanese supermodel Lin Chi-ling, Chinese actress Vicki Zhao and actors Zhang Fengyi and Hu Jun, remain the same.

Kaneshiro's credits include Zhang Yimou's House Of Flying Daggers and Peter Ho-sun Chan's musical drama Perhaps Love. He is currently filming Chan's war epic The Warlords and also recently appeared with Leung in Andrew Lau and Alan Mak's crime thriller Confession Of Pain.

Based on classic Chinese novel Romance Of The Three Kingdoms, Red Cliff is produced by Woo and Terence Chang's Lion Rock Productions with co-financiers including China Film Group, Japan 's Avex Group and its Beijing-based associate company Chengtian Entertainment. Woo adapted the classic along with writers Chen Han and Guo Zheng.

The film will be released as two movies in Asia with the first going out before the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the second opening at the end of next year. It will be released as one movie in the rest of the world with roll-out also tentatively scheduled for December 2008.

'That gives us some more time to work on the CGI as there are around 500 shots in the second film,' said Chang who is currently prepping the film in Beijing. LA and San Francisco-based effect house The Orphanage (Die Hard 4, The Host) is working on the film's special effects.

Summit Entertainment is handling international sales and closed a raft of deals at the recent European Film Market in Berlin.