n a trulytragic blow for movie lovers everywhere, the release of a big budget Chinese war drama starring Bruce Willis has finally been scrapped over the unreported earnings of Willis’ co-star, Fan Bingbing.
Unbreakable Spirit, a film which has also been known as Air Strike and The Bombing, was supposed to tell a tale of courage and perseverance during the Japanese bombing of China’s wartime capital of Chongqing in World War II with Willis playing an inspirational US Army Air Corps advisor named Jack Johnson.
Along with Willis and Fan, the movie also featured an eclectic mix of talent including Adrien Brody, Chinese actor Liu Ye, South Korea’s Song Seung-heon, and Hong Kong’s William Chan. None other than Mel Gibson served as the film’s art director.
Originally planned to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, the movie was met with a number of delays. With major filming wrapping up in 2015, it was supposed to be released this August, but then Fan Bingbing disappeared amid an investigation into her tax filings.
The movie’s release date was pushed back to October 26th and Fan was quietly expunged from all promotional posters, however, rather than subsiding, the pressure on the film only continued to increase.
On October 3rd, tax authorities in Jiangsu province announced that Fan was guilty of tax fraud, stating that she could avoid prison by paying 883 million yuan ($129 million) in back taxes and fees. Officials said that the actress had made use of so-called “yin-yang contracts,” wherein she would receive two separate contracts for the same film project, one of which would be reported to authorities, the other would not, thus helping her sidestep millions in taxes.
One of those “yin-yang contracts” was found to be for her work in Unbreakable Spirit. Investigators discovered that while Fan had only reported being paid 10 million yuan ($1.4 million) for the film, she had actually received 30 million yuan ($4.3 million).
Soon afterward, Cui Yongyuan, the Chinese television host who first blew the whistle on Fan’s transgressions began relentlessly attacking Unbreakable Spirit, charging that the project’s shadiness went far beyond just undisclosed payments to Fan Bingbing. On Tuesday, he called for a boycott of the film, accusing producers of using the film to launder millions by claiming the budget to be much lower than it actually was.
The following day, Director Xiao Feng decided that after eight years of work it was finally time to throw in the towel on Unbreakable Spirit. “It is time to let go,” he wrote on Weibo in an apology to his crew and audiences who will presumably never get the chance to see Bruce Willis and Fan Bingbing on screen together. It’s not clear how humanity will recover.