A cast of 175 or so actors, including over 80 A-list stars and directors, make appearances in the film, most of them small cameos with just a line or two to deliver. The big names include Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Chow Yun Fat, Zhang Ziyi, Vicky Zhao and Andy Lau, although noticeably absent are any Taiwanese stars. Most cast members provided their services for free in what has been described as a patriotic gesture.
Amidst all the big names is an actor relatively unknown outside of China, Tang Guoqiang (唐国强), who plays the film's central character, Mao Zedong. Tall and handsome, Tang was something of a matinee idol in his heyday back in the 70s and early 80s. He was also well respected for his acting abilities, and his resemblance to Mao has seen him play the Great Helmsman at least a dozen times. (Ironically he has also played several of China's best-known emperors, the regal bearing he brings to his characters apparently serving him in good stead for both imperial and communist leaders). Expect his performance in this latest high-profile film to further revitalise his career.
On the back of a large-scale publicity campaign The Founding of a Republic has chalked up impressive box office earnings in its opening week. It boasts the best half-day sales ever for its premiere - RMB14 million, or about US$1.9 million. This compares favourably with China's best-ever opening day box office takings, the RMB25 million earned by Red Cliff, which was over a full day.
Takings for the first week (actually just four and a half days) were 124 million, the highest first week box office haul for a mainland movie. The film's producers, the State-owned China Film Group, are hopeful that The Founding of a Republic will eventually go on to be China's highest grossing film ever, an honour currently held by the Hollywood blockbuster, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Planning is also well underway for a prequel, to focus on the founding of the Communist Party itself. The Founding of a Republic's co-director, Han Sanping - who is also the chairman of China Film Group - is promising that the prequel will also feature a cast of well-known names.