Director Jacob Cheung revisits a classic Chinese story with The White Haired Witch Of Lunar Kingdom.

Huang Xiaoming and Fan Bingbing were so convincing together that they really look like they may be dating, according to director Jacob Cheung.

The two actors play lovers in their first screen collaboration, The White Haired Witch Of Lunar Kingdom.

In a recent phone interview from China, Cheung said, “They are such gorgeous people and they have been friends for so long that they they look extremely compatible together; although in real life, each have their own partners. ”

The Hong Kong-born film director revealed that he was approached by his good friend, Taiwanese actor Nicky Wu, to help secure the rights to Liang Yusheng’s novel The White Haired Witch for film, television series, and online games three years ago. Wu himself starred in the TV series which aired in 2012, while Cheung agreed to take on the film version.

“I did ask Nicky Wu to reprise his role in the film, but he declined, as he felt that since he was already starring in the TV series, it would seem like an embarrassing exercise in self-promotion,” shared Cheung, who is best known for his 1993 Hong Kong drama Cagemen, which won him best director and best screenplay at the Hong Kong Film Awards.

Huang Xiaoming

According to the director, The White Haired Witch Of Lunar Kingdom is closer to the original tale adapted from the popular wuxia novel. However, the 54-year-old filmmaker conceded that it was not easy to cast for the movie due to the legendary status of Ronny Yu’s two-part The Bride With White Hair (1993) classic starring Hong Kong’s Leslie Cheung and Taiwan’s Brigitte Lin as the star-crossed lovers.

In Cheung’s reimagining of the cult classic, Huang plays Wudang Sect Taoist swordsman Zhuo Yihang and Fan plays the titular White-haired Witch Lian Nishang. The 100 million yuan (RM 51.36mil) budget fantasy flick also stars Vincent Zhao, Wang Xuebing and Ni Dahong.

Most people were wary of being compared to the 1993 Zhuo Yihang immortalized by Hong Kong legend Leslie Cheung, so Cheung was glad that Huang felt differently. “Fortunately, Huang Xiao Ming had no such misgivings. He really looked forward to playing Zhuo Yihang, as he felt the role really suited him very well,” he said.

Cheung was also asked to comment on Huang’s much-publicised foot injury, sustained after the heartthrob from China fell three metres and fractured two toes on his left foot while filming a wire scene. “We took all the proper safety measures, with nets and padding in places that people would not see. Our own stunt team had tested the scene more than 30 times before Huang Xiaoming got on the wires,” Cheung recalled.

 “He managed to do some 29 takes safely, but he wasn’t satisfied with any of them, so he decided to do some more. The unfortunate incident happened during the 32nd take. The problem was not in the wires, but the clasp. It goes to show that one can never tell when things will go wrong.

Fan Bingbing

“An injury like that normally requires a 100-day rest period, so we had to rework our shoots around it, including his blue screen scenes. The doctor also advised him against flying as the cabin pressure would affect the healing process, so Huang could not make it to outdoor shoots like those in Wudang Shan, Hengdian, Jinsu and Yinchuan. He even had to take the train from Beijing to Shanghai in order to attend promotional activities for The Last Tycoon (2012) with Chow Yun Fat,” said the director, who was glad he managed to preserve his original ideas despite the mishap.

“After that incident, we were even more careful during the action scenes, as even Fan Bingbing insisted on doing her own stunts,” concluded Cheung.

The White Haired Witch Of Lunar Kingdom opens today.