EXCLUSIVE: What’s a Robert Ludlum thriller without an unexpected plot twist? How about Universal Pictures setting Zhang Yimou to direct The Parsifal Mosaic, the Ludlum bestseller that Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard are producing with Captivate’s Jeffrey Weiner and Ben Smith? I’m told this is the first time that a mainland Chinese director has signed to do an English-language film with a film studio in the U.S. That was the goal when, in May 2012, CAA signed the filmmaker whose film Ju Dou became the first Chinese feature to be nominated for an Oscar, and who also directed the dazzling Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It is not clear yet whether this will be his first Hollywood film or not because he has other irons in the fire. Zhang’s films include the BAFTA-winning Raise The Red Lantern, Hero, House Of Flying Daggers and the Christian Bale starrer Flowers Of War. His latest film, Coming Home, is in the process of being acquired out of Berlin by Sony Pictures Classics, which releases most of Zhang’s Chinese films. Universal, which hatched the Jason Bourne franchise from Ludlum’s signature novel series and has a second spinoff film going with Jeremy Renner and director Justin Lin, has been working for years on the adaptation of Ludlum’s 1982 novel Parsifal Mosaic. The most recent script draft is by David Self, but another draft will be done under the supervision of Zhang. In the thriller, a veteran CIA operative retires but is prompted to return after learning that the woman he fell in love with and lost is actually alive and well. Imagine’s Erica Huggins will be executive producer. Universal Co-President of Production Peter Cramer and Director of Development Jay Polidoro are shepherding for the studio. Zhang is repped by CAA and managed by Mo Zhyang and Catherine Pang.