Zhang said Wednesday that Bale, the star of the boxing drama "The Fighter," will play an American priest in Nanjing during the Japanese invasion.
Zhang says shooting is to start Jan. 10. He says he hopes to tell the story of war atrocities in Nanjing, especially to younger people in Western countries.
Historians say the massacre, known in the West as the "Rape of Nanking," resulted in the slaughter of at least 150,000 civilians. China puts the number killed at 300,000, making it one of the worst atrocities of the World War II era.