HONG KONG - Production got underway today on "The Crossing," the first film in over four years to be directed by "A Better Tomorrow" and "Face/Off" helmer John Woo.

Set against the upheavals of revolutionary China in 1949, the film is the story of three couples from different backgrounds who make a fateful voyage on a ship fleeing China to Taiwan. The screenplay is by Wang Huiling, who previously co-wrote "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and who adapted "Lust Caution."

The $40 million two-part movie is backed by rising Chinese studio Beijing Galloping Horse, along with China Film Group and Zhejiang Huace Film & TV, with production by Woo and Terence Chang's Lion Rock Productions.

Woo and Chang have assembled a pan-Asian, all-star cast headed by Tong Dawei, Zhang Ziyi, Huang Xiaoming, (South Korea's) Song Hye-kyo, (Taiwan's) Takeshi Kaneshiro and (Japan's) Masami Nagasawa.

"We are not shooting the foreign actors yet. And we are still adding on names," Chang told Variety. "Confirmed are Jack Kao (高捷), Yang Kui-Mei (杨贵媚), and Hong Kong actor Bowie Lam (林保怡).

Top technical crew includes cinematographer Zhao Fei (趙非); production designer Horace Ma (馬光荣); costume and makeup artist Chen Tongxun (陈同勋) and music composer Taro Iwashiro.

Woo has racked up numerous credits and accolades in the past years, but has not moved behind the camera since the $80 million historical epic "Red Cliff," released in two parts in 2008 and 2009 respectively. He is next scheduled to direct "Flying Tigers" for Exclusive Media from 2014.