Chinese actress Fan Bingbing, best known in the West for her role as Blink in 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past, is set to return to acting in the upcoming all-female spy film, 355, following a tax evasion scandal in her home nation of China that threatened to upend her career.
"The project is moving forward with the original cast and filmmaker, and a start date announcement with full details will be forthcoming," a source close to the production told Variety.
Of course, Fan is not the only person related to the X-Men franchise attached to 355. The film will also star Dark Phoenix's Jessica Chastain, as well as be directed by longtime X-Men producer and Dark Phoenix director Simon Kinberg. 355's main cast also includes Lupita Nyong'0 (Black Panther), Penélope Cruz (American Crime Story) and Marion Cotillard (Inception).
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Last June, Fan was implicated during China's widespread crackdown on corruption after television producer Cui Yongyuan accused the actress of utilizing "yin-yang contracts," a common but illegal practice in which actors take multiple contracts from the same project and submit the one of lowest value to the government, in order to minimize the amount they pay in taxes.
Fan, one of China's highest-paid actresses and most prevalent entertainment figures, essentially dropped off the face of the Earth shortly thereafter, going dark on social media and being absent from the public eye for some time. This led people to believe Fan had been arrested by Chinese authorities, which was confirmed in September. It was also reported she received a three-year acting ban, but this was never confirmed.
Fan finally re-emerged in October to confess to the crimes she had been accused of, with her and her companies subsequently being ordered to pay RMB 883 million ($129 million) in fines, back taxes, late payment penalties and interest.
The news that Fan is set to return to the big screen in 355 suggests this was ultimately enough for her to escape criminal sanctions, as well as the supposed ban. Although, the Chinese film industry hasn't exactly welcomed her back with open arms. Fan has largely disappeared from billboards and magazines, and only occasionally checks in on her social media profiles.
Following the tax evasion scandal, the future of 355 remained up in the air for a time. However, despite the film losing its backing from China's Huayi Brothers Media, Simon Kinberg insists the project is still pushing forward. While the film does not currently have a release date, the director expects filming to begin sometime this year and stated the original cast members remain "more than interested – they are committed.”