Zhang Yimou has started production on his second big-budget martial arts film following Hero - Shi Mian Maifu (literally Ambush From Ten Directions) - in the Ukraine.

The film, which has been the subject of intense speculation in the mainland press for several months, is set to star China's Zhang Ziyi, Hong Kong stars Andy Lau and Anita Mui and Taiwan-Japanese heartthrob Takeshi Kaneshiro.

Hero costume designer Emi Wada and action director Tony Ching Siu-Tung are also understood to be working on the film, along with composer Shigeru Umebayashi (In The Mood For Love).

But although the production reunites many of the talents that worked on Hero, it's not a sequel to that film. Set during the Tang Dynasty, the story involves a love triangle between Zhang's character and two policemen played by Lau and Kaneshiro.

Zhang reportedly chose the Ukraine as a location because it offers the mainland director fresh locations. However, the film will also shoot in China and is scheduled to wrap next January. Like Hero, the film is produced by Beijing New Picture Film Co and Bill Kong's Elite Group Enterprises.

Hero took a record-breaking US$29.2m in China and performed strongly in the rest of Asia, including Japan where it opened last month. However it has yet to be released by Miramax which owns North American rights.