Marvel Studios is trying something a little different to rustle up the money for Iron Man 3 and help it become a huge hit not just in the United States, but in the increasingly important foreign market. As announced last week, they're teaming up with China's DMG Entertainment to co-produce the film and release it in China, with scenes also scheduled to shoot in the country that's famously restrictive for releases of non-Chinese movies. The co-production deal will allow Iron Man 3 to be treated like a native film, meaning the box office returns in that country of 1.3 billion could make this co-production deal pay off in spades.

But to pass muster as a Chinese movie, Iron Man 3 has to do more than just throw Tony Stark in Beijing and hand him a pair of chopsticks-- they need some actual Chinese faces in there as well. Now the rumor at Neon Punch (via Twitch) is that House of Flying Daggers and Infernal Affairs star Andy Lau is the guy the studios want on board, to play a scientist friend to Tony Stark who helps him fight off both Ben Kingsley's villain character and the Extremis virus that Guy Pearce's character develops. The part sounds pretty substantial, far more than just "quota casting," though you only need to think back to Iron Man 2 to remember how big-sounding roles are also capable of getting lost in the action-spectacle shuffle.

If they are indeed casting Lau, now is the time to do it, as the studio is also chasing Jessica Chastain for a supporting role, along with firming up Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce's contracts. Production is set to start at the studios in Wilmington, North Carolina very soon, with the Chinese shoot scheduled for later this year. With the rumors that Kingsley would be playing Iron Man's famous Chinese foe The Mandarin still unconfirmed, Lau's participation could give the story another reason to head to China-- not to mention that crucial Chinese participation that will allow the movie to become a hit over there. And of course, Lau's own resume is more than enough proof that he could hold his own in a giant action movie this size-- it would be his first venture into a largely American film, which might bring a whole new crop of moviegoers to his Hong Kong work.

Consider Lau's participation a rumor for now, but at the rate things are moving on this project, we'd expect confirmation one way or another very soon.
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