HONG KONG - Producer Charles Heung says he has fired actress Cecilia Cheung from a major 3D movie, Legend Of The Gods, for her bad attitude and will never hire her again.
Heung is the husband of producer Tiffany Chen, a long-time supporter of Cheung who insisted on casting the actress as Chinese deity Nezha after her alleged heartbreak over former husband Nicholas Tse's rekindled romance with singer Faye Wong.
The role in the movie - which also stars Jet Li, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Louis Koo and Huang Xiaoming - was intended to save the career of Cheung, whose six recent films did miserably at the box office.
In an interview with Apple Daily on Tuesday, Heung said the decision to fire her was made on Monday, more than two months into filming in China. His company China Star is producing the movie with China's Huayi Brothers. Heung said he invested hundreds of millions of Hong Kong dollars in the project and replacing Cheung would cost him.
"These things are usually announced by Mrs Heung, but she is so sad and feels she has lost face," he said.
Apple Daily, citing sources, said Cheung was frequently absent and her heart was not in her work even when she was around. Instead, the 34-year-old - who has been linked to Chinese businessman Sun Donghai, 47 - often played with her cellphone. She was distracted and failed to deliver on set, said the report.
Heung said Cheung and his wife had a heart-to-heart talk about family on WeChat around September last year. Afterwards, out of sympathy for her difficulties as a divorced mother of two, Chen decided to give her a chance and fought hard for her role as Nezha.
Heung said Cheung had admitted having a bad attitude towards work, but hoped to make a fresh start on the set of Legend Of The Gods.
But the actress had a "relapse" as soon as filming started, the producer said.
"This is a character issue," he said. "Every time there were other stars on set, she felt neglected and lost her temper."
He added: "Frankly, everyone is more popular than her, but she had more scenes and threw tantrums over that."
Once, he said, she flew in from Singapore without warning anyone, then blamed the crew for not scheduling scenes for her.
He and his wife have given up on her and they do not wish to be made the laughing stock of the industry, he said.
Back in 2003, after Cheung's break-up with Tse, Chen was her champion. She cast the actress in a Hong Kong Film Award-winning role in the movie Lost In Time. Cheung's more recent films, such as Legendary Amazons and Speed Angels, both in 2011, performed poorly.