John Woo Divebombs Into WWII Again With ‘Flying Tiger Heroes’

Hong Kong action auteur John Woo (“Hard Boiled”) will remain in China for his next film, a WWII epic about the 1st American Volunteer Group (aka The Flying Tigers), according to a report on /Film. You’ve no doubt seen the group’s iconic aircraft, known for having teeth painted on their noses. Maybe a few of you have even seen the 1942 John Wayne movie “Flying Tigers,” a then-contemporary fictionalized story of the now-legendary airmen.

Woo’s picture, currently titled “Flying Tiger Heroes,” will ostensibly present us with the real history of the Volunteer Group. The Flying Tigers consisted of Americans recruited to aid the Chinese Air Force against Japan prior to America’s entrance into World War II. Of course, the $160 million action flick will also wow us with what the filmmaker promises to be “the most spectacular aerial battle scenes ever seen in Chinese cinema.”

This will be China’s most expensive film ever, doubling the $80 million budget of “Red Cliff,” Woo’s prior project, a duology. “Cliff” is an historical epic set in the 3rd century, and it was a huge hit in Asia but it still hasn’t opened here. At least half of the money for “Flying Tiger Heroes” will reportedly come from the U.S., and the cast will obviously include a number of American actors. Expect a big-name role for the part of the group’s creator-commander, Lieutenant General Claire Lee Chennault.

Woo previously took on WWII with the 2002 Nic Cage-led “Windtalkers.” That was a purely Hollywood war picture, and a very America-centric one, whereas “Flying Tiger Heroes” will hopefully include more of a Chinese perspective. Last year, the filmmaker announced he was following “Red Cliff” with a post-WWII love story entitled “1949.” Later he was thought to be helming the comic book adaptation of “Caliber,”.

Woo has a long history of prematurely attaching himself to projects that don’t materialize (see also: “Spy Hunter,” “Metroid” and “He-Man”). “Flying Tiger Heroes” seems to really be happening though, with Woo currently working on “basic preparations for shooting” and waiting on a script that should be ready in a month.

While I’m feeling hesitant about “Flying Tiger Heroes” given my disappointment with “Windtalkers” and the recent, similarly plotted — though Woo-less — aerial action film “Flyboys,” the director’s better work (“The Killer,” “Face/Off”) keeps me hopeful that he will at least deliver the spectacle he promises. Between this movie and the upcoming George Lucas production “Red Tails,” WWII air combat enthusiasts have a lot to anticipate. Even if we so far have little reason to feel optimistic.

Are you a Woo fan? Looking forward to seeing his doves fly alongside the Flying Tigers in in “Flying Tiger Heroes”? Do you have higher hopes for this one, or for the Lucas project, “Red Tails”?