GONG LI, CHOW YUN-FAT, ZHANG ZIYI AND OTHER CHINESE FILM ACTORS AND ACTRESSES

CHINESE FILM ACTORS

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Rian Lingyu
Famous Hong Kong actors include Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-fat, Jet Li, Leslie Cheung, Tony Leung and Andy Lau. The most famous mainland actors are the actresses Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi.

The most famous old time movie star was Rian Lingyu, who is sometimes called the “Chinese Garbo.” She appeared in Shanghai silent classic such as Cai Chusheng’s New Woman (1934). Her performance in the film caused a major sensation and outcry in the press to which Rian responded by killing herself with a bottle of sleeping pills. In her suicide note she wrote, “Nothing matters.” Thousands turned out for her funeral.

Anna May Wong was a star during the silent era. She retired in 1928 saying, "I was tired of parts I had to play. Why is it that on the screen the Chinese are nearly always the villain and so cruel a villain---murderous, treacherous, a snake in the grass? We are not like that. How could we be, with a civilization so many times older than that of the West? We have our rigid code of behavior, of honor. Why do they never show those on the screen?"

The base salary for non-star speaking roles in Hong Kong ranges from $40 to $125 a day. Even big stars like Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi don’t get trailers and often have to work months straight with no break for weekends.

On the difference between actors in mainland China and Hong Kong, the Hong Kong-born film director Ronny Yu told the Los Angeles Times, mainland Chinese actors “have more formal training. They’re more serious about their profession. In Hong Kong, movie stars don’t even have time to think about their roles. They have 10 movies shooting at the same time.”

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Xin Fengxia, popular actress in the 1950s
More and more Chinese actors are appearing in Hollywood films. While some are thrilled to see homegrown celebrities in demand abroad, others are less enthused. "They might be using Chinese faces and locations in China, but it's still a case of Hollywood expertise and Hollywood storylines," one Chinese producer told The Guardian says Teng. "Chinese talents and resources are being drained. It's as if the Chinese film industry is being colonized."

Taiwan’s Golden Horse awards are regarded as the Chinese-language Oscars. They are given out in December for films shown the previous year.

Good Websites and Sources: Chinese Actresses on spcnet.tvspcnet.tv ; Chinese Actors on spcnet.tvspcnet.tv ; Chinese Actresses on M-Dream m-dream.co.uk ; Chinese Actors on M-Dream m-dream.co.uk ; Bai Ling on IMDB www.imdb.com ; Steven Chow chowsingchi.atspace.com ; Zhang Ziyi Official Site helloziyi.us ; Gong Lee on IMDB imdb.com

Good Websites and Sources on Chinese Film: Chinese Movie Database dianying.com ; Internet Movie Database /www.imdb.com ; Shelly Kraicer’s Chinese Cinema site chinesecinemas.org ; Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (MCLC) Resource List mclc.osu.edu ; iFilm Connections---Asia and Pacific asianfilms.org ; Love Asia Film loveasianfilm.com ; Journal of Chinese Cinemas intellectbooks.co.uk ; Wikipedia article on Chinese Cinema Wikipedia ; Senses of Cinema sensesofcinema.com ; Film in China (Chinese Government site) china.org.cn ; Directory of Interent Sources newton.uor.edu ; Chinese, Japanese, and Korean CDs and DVDs at Yes Asia yesasia.com and Zoom Movie zoommovie.com ; Expert on Chinese film: Stanley Rosen, a professor at the University of Southern California.

Links in this Website: CHINESE FILM INDUSTRY Factsanddetails.com/China ; HONG KONG MOVIE INDUSTRY Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINESE FILM MAKERS AND THEIR FILMS Factsanddetails.com/China ; ZHANG YIMOU AND ANG LEE Factsanddetails.com/China ; HONG KONG FILM MAKERS AND THEIR FILMS Factsanddetails.com/China ; FOREIGN FILMS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINESE FILM ACTORS Factsanddetails.com/China ; JACKIE CHAN Factsanddetails.com/China ; BRUCE LEE AND JET LI Factsanddetails.com/China ;

Extras and Wannabe Actors

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Chinese-American actor Keye Luke
playing Master Po Kung Fu
Wannabe actors take positions around the gates of the Beijing Film Studio, off the Third Ring Road in Beijing, in hopes of getting a part in a film. Many do a kung fu kick routine when a car, possibly carrying a director or film executive, pull ups. Sometimes a huge crowd has already assembled at 6:00am. By some estimates 100,000 people a year show up at the gates hoping to get their big break.

To stand out some of the wannabe actors blast a few notes from a trumpet. Some don sequined blouses, Others wear cowboy hats. Many are dirty migrant workers. Most who get jobs are hired by casting crews looking for a few hundred or few thousands extras.

A guy waiting outside the gate, with a ponytail and cowboy hat, told the Los Angeles Times, “I’m stylish, good-looking and the girls love me. I’m also an excellent singer.”

In China, it is often cheaper to pay hundreds of extras than use computer animation. Extras are technically supposed to be paid $7 to $12 a day but generally they receive about half that after middlemen take their cut and various deductions are made. Many are poorly-treated during production. Some loose money to unscrupulous talent scouts. One extra told the Los Angeles Times, “No one really appreciates extras. Even on the set, you work hard and they swear at you all the time.”

Migrant workers who get jobs say the sense of satisfaction outweighs the lack of money. One man who worked as a soldier, farmer, miner and laborer told the Los Angeles Times, “once you do it well, you feel such a sense of achievement. It’s better than anything else I’ve done in my life.”

Chow Yun-Fat

left Described as the Cary Grant of Hong Kong action film, Chow Yun-Fat made a name for himself playing gangsters in Hong Kong and had appeared in a number of Hollywood films, including Pirates of the Caribbean III. He has earned best actor awards at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival in Tokyo, Taiwan’s Golden Horse Film Festival and the Hong Kong Academy Awards.

Chow grew up in a poor Hong Kong Hong family and quit school in the 7th garde. His acting career began he was he was still a teenager: answering a ad in the newspaper for new actors he was signed to a 14-year contracts with TVB television after a year of training. "I never thought that I would an actor, but I was 17 at the time and felt that it was a good opportunity to explore my world."

Chow Yun-Fat has done promotional work for the World Wildlife Fund.

Chow Yun-Fat Hong Kong Films

right Chow appeared in more than 70 films since 1976 and hundred of hours of television programs. He first made a name for himself in John Woo films such A Better Tomorrow (1986), a huge box office success. In this action film he played a gangster pursued by both sides if the law. Chow and Woo both helped each other’s career. Chow made 12 films in 1986, a record for a leading actor.

Thousand of people around Asia imitated Chow's character from A Better Tomorrow, a gangster who often had a toothpick in his mouth, smoked cigarettes in peculiar way, and a wore a trench coat even in sweltering tropical weather. In A Better Tomorrow the critic John Powers called Chow a “grinning, swaggering gunslinger” who “dominates the from the start” and “embodies the ideals of love, loyalty and conquest that gives the tale its fore.”

In The Replacement Killers he plays a modern-day Samurai-style warrior who lives by a strict code of ethics. In The Corruptor (NYPD 15 Bunsho) he plays a sneering, semi-crooked cop who goes after Chinese gangs with the help of his white partner. There is lots of shooting on and blood in both films.

Chow Yun-Fat Hollywood Films

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A scene from Replacement Killers
Chow moved from Hong Kong to Hollywood and then returned the Chinese cinema. He appeared in U.S. movies Anna and the King with Jodie Foster and Bulletproof Monk and returned to China to play an emperor on Zhang Yimou’s Curse of the Golden Flower and Postmodern Life of My Aunt, a comedy by Hong Kong director Ann Hui. Chow starred in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

In April 2007,Chow Yun-fat said he wanted out of John Woo’s epic Red Cliff, dealing a blow to one of Hong Kong film’s most famous partnerships.

Chinese censors cut scenes with Chow Yun-fat out of the third Pirates of the Caribbean film, saying his role was an insult to Chinese people. Chow appears in only 10 minutes of the Chinese version of the film, compared to 20 minutes of the film shown elsewhere. According to a Chinese film magazine the scenes were cut because “The captain starring Chow is bald his face his heavily scared, he also wears a long beard and has long nails, images till in line with Hollywood; old tradition of demonizing the Chinese.”

Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung

right Tony Leung won the award for best actor for is role in The Mood for Love at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000 and the Hong Kong Film Awards. He plays a cheated husband who begins his own affair. He also appeared in Happy Together, a film is about a pair of quarrelsome gay lovers who end up on Argentina., and The Lover.

Tony Leung won the award for best actor by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society for the film 2046. He was also one of the stars of Infernal Affairs.

Leslie Cheung is a singer-actor known of his big ego. He stared in the Cannes-award-winning film Farewell My Concubine and his music has a large international following, particularly in Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China. Although he was popular with young women he was openly gay and fond of wearing wigs and high heels. His longtime lover was a banker named Daffy Tong.

Cheung was born in Hong Kong in 1956. He became popular as a singer with a bad boy image in the 1980s. His most acclaimed film roles were playing gay men. Cheung played a homosexual opera singer who commits suicide in Farewell My Concubine. In Wong Kar-wai’s Happy Together, he played a gay man who moved to Argentina with his lover. He appeared in several Wong Kar-wai films and John Woo films. In his last film, Inner Senses, he plays man possessed by dead girlfriend who tries to convince him to leap to his death.

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Funeral for Tony Leung
Cheung killed himself in April 2003 after leaping from the balcony outside the gym on the 24th floor of the Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong. He was 46. Police found a suicide note on his body saying he had been troubled by “emotional problems” and “This year has been tough. I can’t take it any more.” Before he jumped, he sat on a stool on the balcony and ordered a glass of lemon water, cigarettes and an apple and asked for a paper and pen.

Website: www.lesliecheung.com



Maggie Cheung

Maggie Cheung is one of Hong Kong's best, most prolific and popular actresses. One of her biggest fans is Richard Corliss of Time. Her "greatest special effect is her face," he wrote. "You can read it like a beautiful picture book. In that pretty visage every emotions her characters might experience is instantly on call."

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Maggie Cheung
Cheung (who was 40 in 2005) is 5-foot-6-inches tall and has a very unusual accent: the result of having moved at age 8 from Hong Kong to Britain, where she was the only Asian at a school in Kent, England, and the moved back to Hong Kong again at age 17 for a career as a model. "I can speak like 70 percent of English and 70 percent of Chinese," she told the New York Times. "I kind of stuck between two languages." Cheung lives in Paris with her husband, the French director Oliver Assayas, with whom she speaks mostly in English.

Cheung has appeared in more than 70 Honk Kong movies. She began he her career as an action star and later was romantic lead. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Cheung battled an eunuch in Heroic Trio, shoved cake in Jackie Chan's face in Police Story and darted her tongue erotically in Green Snake. Cheung appeared in five Jackie Chan films, matching him stunt for stunt and injury for injury. Once she was got partly scalped while shooting a film and had to get 17 stitches and spend a week in the hospital.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the Hong Kong film industry was at its peak, she appeared in 10 films year. Some were good. Others that had titles like It's a Drink, It's a Bomb were not. In 1994, she dropped out. "I was fed up with the parts I was playing....I always played a really helpless, cute girl who the hero came and saved...All the films seemed the same?.

In 1996, Cheung came out of retirement to play herself, "Maggie Cheung, Asian Superstar," in Irma Vep, a French satire about filmmaking, directed by her husband. She said she didn't act and just played herself. After the experience her acting became more natural and sensitive.

In the late 1990s she appeared in the critically acclaimed Comrades, Almost a Love Story and Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love, for which received the best actress award at the Hong Kong Film Awards, as well the less acclaimed Chinese Box (1998, directed by Wayne Wang) She was also in Zhang Yimou’s Hero and Wong Kar Wai’s 2046.

Good Maggie Cheung sources: Papermag's interview with Cheung maggie-cheung-coming-clean ; The Sunday Times's article The Sunday Times's article ; The Sunday Herald's article, China’s Garbo www.heraldscotland.com/china-s-garbo ; Dailymotion's interview video with CHEUNG, partly in French dailymotion.com

Gong Li

left The most well known and arguably the most beautiful actress in China is Gong Li. She cannot speak English and still looks very sexy at 40. The Los Angeles Times called “one of the most delectable Chinese imports since the noodle” and said she has the rare ability to convey both strength and vulnerability

Gong is arguably the first Chinese actor to draw attention in the West without martial arts skills. She was born shortly before the onset of the Cultural Revolution to a pair of economic professors who were forced to work in factories and send all their children away, with the exception of Li, to work in the countryside. Gong Li studied at the prestigious Central Drama Academy in Beijing at met the director Zhang Yimou there when she was 22.

The director Wong Kar Wai told the Daily Yomiuri, “Gong Li has a quality that you cannot really put your finger on. She has a strong presence on the screen. Everyone around her, including myself...is drawn to her when she was on the set...Even more surprisingly is that her beauty becomes even more greater and more profound in the later stages of the shooting when everyone is was exhausted.”

Gong Li was chosen by L'Oreal as the face for its products in China. In 1998, she was awarded the medal of the Officer des Arts, France's highest art award. In China Gong has served as a Chinese parliament delegate.

Gong Li’s Love Life and English Classes

Gong Li was the star of seven Zhang Yimou films and was his lover for many years. Sometimes referred to as the Von Sternberg and Dietrich of Chinese cinema, the couple split up in the mid-1990s, depending on who you talk to, because she didn't want to have children or because she left him for the rich Singaporean businessman Ooi How Seong.

On Gong Li’s problems speaking English, director Michael Mann told the Los Angeles Times: “The difficulty is; in Mandarin, the muscles in your mouth aren’t used to make Rs and Ls. She never developed those muscles. It’s not just making a different sound. Her tongue is not conditioned to be behind her teeth and to breath in the same way,. She had to do facial expressions just to be able to make these sounds. the degree of difficulty is high.”

Gong Li’s Films

right Gong Li films include several Fifth Generation classics: Chen Kaige Temptress Moon, and Farewell My Concubine, and Zhang Yimou's Raise the Red Lantern and Ju Dou (The Story of Qiu Ju).

Gong Li appeared with Maggie Cheung and Jeremy Irons in The Chinese Box and played Hannibal Lector’s mentor-lover in Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask. Li and Indian actress Ashwarya Rai and French actress Laetitoa Casa starred in Bad Education by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. She was offered a part opposite Robert DeNiro in Heat but turned it down because of her English deficiency. Gong Li was signed up to do a Hollywood film with Richard Gere but the project was later scrapped because of the lack of a good script.

In 2005, Li played the villain geisha in Memoirs of Geisha. In 2006, she starred in the $140 million movie version Miami Vice. She played the lover of a drug lord who falls for Sonny Crocker (Colin Farrell), the detective who is trying to bring in her lover. Li did a steamy love scene with Farrell. She needed an eight-person entourage of translators, assistants and dialogue coaches to get her English in shape for the performances.

Li and Zhang Yimou reunited to make The Curse of the Golden Flower---a Shakespearean-style tragedy set on Tang dynasty China about an Empress who falls in love with the Emperor’s son from a different marriage and plots to kill her husband, the Emperor (Chow Yun-Fat).

Gong Li's Citizenship Switch Stirs Outrage

In 2008, Gong Li became a Singapore citizen, a move that requires her to forsake her Chinese citizenship. The decision sparked an online debate in China Tuesday, with many branding her a traitor but others defending the star. “All traitors will be nailed to history's mast of shame. We should resolutely reject any futher contact with such people,” one person said in a chat forum on the popular portal Sohu.com. Another said: “Traitors like this don't even love their own country. These people were only fake countrymen of ours. Let them slink off to other countries and die!” [Source: AFP]

The state-run Xinhua news agency said speculation that she was actively seeking foreign citizenship resulted in Gong being left off the list of delegates for the 2008 session of parliament earlier this year. However, many people also expressed understanding for Gong's decision, noting the pressure such stars face in China, and making veiled criticisms of life in the communist country. “Why doesn't anyone ask why people want to emigrate? We see one Chinese person after another take US citizenship,” one person said on Sohu. “Why don't we see Americans taking Chinese citizenship?”

Michelle Yeoh

left The veteran Hong-Kong action star Michelle Yeoh appeared in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon , Memoirs of a Geisha and dozens of Hong Kong action films and was a Bond girl in Tomorrow Never Dies . Regarded as Hong Kong's most respected kung fu film actress, she has appeared opposite Jackie Chan in several films and suffered serious injuries on several occasions doing stunts. She is the highest paid Asian actress, earning $13 million per film.

Standing 5-foot-4-inches and weighing 100 pounds, Yeoh was born to Chinese parents in Ipoh, Malaysia. In school, she was a good swimmer and rugby player and her dream was to become a ballet dancer, but all that changed when he mother entered her in a Miss Malaysia beauty contest without her knowing it in 1983 and she won. In 1984 she appeared in some commercials and five Hong Kong films. She retired from film between 1988 and 1992 when she was married to business tycoon and producer Dickson Poon.

Yeoh resumed her career after the marriage collapsed and appeared with Jackie Chan in Police Story III: Supercop, where she rode a motorbike onto a speeding train and jumped from helicopter into a moving convertible. Yeoh has dislocated her shoulder, cracked some ribs, and ruptured arteries in her leg. While leaping from an 18-foot overpass in Stuntwoman she missed the safety net and dislocated her neck. "I heard a snap in my back when I landed and said, 'Uh-oh, I'm going to be paralyzed for life.'" She recovered after spending several months in a full body cast.

Michelle Yeoh played Aung San Suu Kyi in a 2011 biopic of the Myanmar pro-democracy leader.

Zhang Ziyi

right Zhang Ziyi is arguably the most beautiful and in-demand actress from China. She wowed audiences in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and charmed them in Memoir of a Geisha and is equally adept at doing choreographed fights, loves scenes, and serious drama.

Zhang is beautiful in a cute way, has a delightful smile, steely stare, great fighting technique and a dancer’s body. Yimou said "she was born to be filmed." Ang Lee said, "She is very sexy...She is the most marvelous thing I've found." The New York Times wrote that Zhang has the “ability to flicker from rage to vulnerability with hummingbird grace and speed.”

The daughter of an economist and kindergarten teacher, she was born in Beijing in 1979 and grew up after Cultural Revolution period in the Deng reforms era. She initially wanted to be a dancer, studied at the Beijing Dance Academy and won an award at China's National Young Dancer competition. Ultimately though she didn't like dancing and gave it up at 15, and then won a place at the China Central Drama Academy.

Zhang caught hey eye of Yimou who auditioned her for a shampoo commercial and cast he at the age of 18 in The Road Home , which won an award at the Berlin Film Festival. Zhang does television commercials a shampoo in Japan called in “Asia-essence” in which she is shown making Western women envious with her good looks and beautiful, shimmering hair. She also does ads for Maybelline, Pantene, Tag Heuer, Coca Cola and Visa.

Zhang Ziyi’s Love Life

left There have been rumors that Zhang was romantically involved with Zhang Yimou who was linked for many years with Gong Li. There have also been reports that the Zhang’s romance with Gong Li collapsed once he started working with Zhang. Zhang dismisses these allegation, “I’m too busy to have a boyfriend. I just want to focus on my script,” she said. Her current boyfriend reportedly is an Israeli businessman.

When asked for opinion of performance of her two onscreen lovers---one Japanese and one Chinese---in the lovemaking scenes in one film Zhang said both were good kissers but the Japanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro was “gentle and considerate” while the Hong Kong actor Andy Lau was “tough and brusque.”

Zhang Ziyi is polishing her English skills by taking voice and dialect classes ay the Julliard School in New York. She now speaks good English. In person she often looks plane and tired. Sometimes she is accompanied on the set by her mother. When asked about the supernatural powers of king fu she told The Time of London, “Yes, I believe there are people in China who can fly.

Zhang Ziyi’s Career

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Zhang Ziyi in a Coke ad
In 2005, Zhang said, “I don’t want to call myself a Hollywood star because I still feel like an outsider...Hollywood is, of course, an ideal place for any actor or actress because it draws the best talent in world...But at this time, I still feel like a transient: it’s not my world.” On another occasion she told the Times of London, “I prefer fans in America. They are more civilized. In China, if you don’t take a picture with them they say, “I’ll never see your film again.”

On working in Hollywood she told the Times of London, “everyone says, “You’re wonderful, you’re great. I’m not used to it Chinese directors don’t praise, they only smack. It’s our culture. I waited for five months before Zhang Yimou said “good job. And just that one piece of praise made me cry. That’s why I work hard every day.”

In 2005, Zhang said she was reluctant about doing Hollywood action roles. “Frankly,” she told the South China Morning News, “I think we have the ability to handle more complex characters. I’m not just playing action movies or some stereotyped characters....I have been waiting and waiting for a quality production. “

On flying around in wires and doing fight scenes she said, “We get hurt all the time. It’s normal. Once when she accidently cut actress Maggie Cheung in her hand with a sword she said, “I cried so much. I couldn’t stop. I felt so bad.” She says she had not been injured.

Zhang has a reputation for working hard and being down to earth. Few have accused of her acting like a prima donna. During shooting of the Chinese film The Banquet, which she made in 2006 after becoming a big star in Hollywood, she willingly shaved her eyebrows for the role and even made soup and served it to the crew on the set.

Zhang is active in the British charity Care for Children, which finds foster homes for orphaned and disabled children. “There are so many in China who do not have my good fortune,” she said. I want to give something back to society, and since I love children this seemed like a way for me to make a difference.”

Zhang Ziyi’s Early Films

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Poster for Road Home
Zhang Ziyi starred in The Road Home, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Rush Hour II, Memoirs of a Geisha, House of Daggers, Hero and 2046.

Zhang made her debut in Zhang Yimou's The Road Home, described a visual love letter to the actress. She was very convincing as a sweet, innocent peasant girl. She had only been in one film (The Road Home) and had never done martial arts when Ang Lee selected her for Crouching Tiger. At the age of 19 she stole many of the scenes in that film from some of Hong Kong’s greatest actors. Zhang was the best thing about the Jackie Chan film Rush Hour II. She played a Kung-fu-kicking villainess. In that film she mostly leered. She didn’t speak much English.

In House of Daggers Zhang plays a martial arts master with amazing skills who also happens to be blind. In the opening scenes she repels an attack of pebbles, throwing them back to create rhythms on a circle of drums, and tries to assassinate a nobleman with a knife while doing a traditional Chinese long sleeve dance. She trained for two months with a real blind person to learn her movements and reactions.

Zhang Ziyi’s Later Films

Zhang won the award for best actress by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society for her performance in the film 2046. The New York Times said she put in an “astonishing performance” of “heartache and steel” in that film. “Her character crumbles with desire” and “Zhang’s face seems to break into pieces.”

Ziyi Zhang was pretty to look at in Memoirs of a Geisha but her acting was not great. Zhang had initially been rejected by Spielberg for the role in the early 2000s because the only words of English she knew at that time were “hire me.” Marshall told the Los Angeles Times that what impressed him about her was her athleticism and dancer’s training. “It was the fit...It was the slipper.” To get her English pronunciation right she studied two hours a day with a dialect teacher. See Memoirs of a Geisha, Japan.

Zhang Ziyi is going to star with Dennis Quaid in crime thriller called Four Horsemen. Quaid plays a detective investigating a series of murders connected to the Biblical story of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Zhang plays a “manipulative young woman” who is also investigating the case.

Zhang signed to play a role in Ye Yan, a drama by the director Kiao Gang, filmed in Mongolia.

Zhang had a voice role in TMNT, a film based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Sophie’s Revenge is a romantic comedy produced by Zhang Ziyi that stars Zhang and popular South Korean actor So Ji Sub. It is about a woman who tries a number of ways to get revenge after her fiancé dumps her on the eve of their wedding, Zhang comes across as spunky but somewhat miscast.

Liu Xiaoqing

Liu Xiaoqing is one of the most famous people in China. She emerged in the late Mao era as an actress and made a name for herself in films as a Lolita-like revolutionary in the 1979 film Little Flower, for which she was paid $6. In the Deng era, she made a fortune writing some best-selling books about herself, marketing cosmetics, making television programs with herself in the leading roles, and making some lucrative real estate and business deals.

Lui was notorious for not paying her crew and going into stores and demanding something and then not paying for it. Not long after declaring herself the richest woman in China and attaining te rank of 45 of the list of wealthiest Chinese (with $70 million) she was arrested and jailed for not paying $1.2 million in taxes. She was so well known at the time that after her arrest tax payments nationwide jumped by 24 percent.

Jia Hongsheng Suicide

In July 2010, the actor Jia Hongsheng was found dead on the path beneath his 14th-floor flat in Anyuanbeili, Beijing, apparently after leaping to his death in an apparent suicide. [Source: Global Times, Doriah Morrison, July 8, 2010]

Between 1987 and 1993 he starred in several popular films including The Murder of Silver Snake and Morning Beijing and was in the same class at the Central Academy of Drama in 1985 as Gong Li. However. Quick fame and obsession are said to have done him. In 1992, he became addicted to drugs and began considering John Lennon as his spiritual father. [Ibid]

Despite his unstable mental state, Jia continued his acting career and worked with some of the best of the independent Sixth Generation directors including Zhang Yang and Wang Xiaoshuai, until he was admitted a psychiatric hospital for visual and auditory hallucinations and forced rehabilitation in 1995. [Ibid]

In 1998 he made a brief return by starring in Lou Ye's Suzhou River, which is considered as a representative work of the Sixth Generation directors.The film also started Jia's relationship with co-star Zhou Xun, which lastedfor around four years. Jia helped Zhou get her first important role in TV series Palace of Desire by introducing her to director Li Shaohong, but their relationship ended with Zhou cheating with singer Pu Shu. [Ibid]

According to my sources, Zhou cheated while still living with Jia, but was driven away when Jia saw Pu performing on TV, wearing a necklace Jia had given to Zhou. Zhou has yet to make a public statement in relation to Jia's death. [Ibid]

In the years that followed, Jia continued to struggle with drug addiction. He honestly and bravely captured his addiction and rehabilitation in the 2000 mockumentary Quitting, directed by Zhang Yang. In the film, he called himself “the son of John Lennon.” The film earned him a best actor award at the International Rome Film Festival. [Ibid]

Chinese indie films began to fall in popularity at the beginning of the century and Jia stopped acting. According to his closest friends, Jia spent most of his time at home, listening to rock music and refusing to be reached by the outside world. “I do not want to play this game,” he said. Jia's family moved from northeast China to be with him. [Ibid]

Other Famous Actors and Actresses

Other famous Chinese directors and actors including Jiang Wen, an actor in Red Sorghum and Beijing Bastards and director of Heat of the Sun; Ning Ling, actress in Red Firecracker, Green Firecracker and Heat of the Sun. The famous Chinese actress Ju Jia died from a drug overdose at the age of 28

Actress Joan Chen appeared in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor, and Chen Kaige's Temptress Moon and Farewell My Concubine. She was born and raised in Shanghai and moved to America when she was in her twenties and married and settled in San Francisco. She returns to Shanghai around four times a year.

Bai Ling stared in Red Corner with Richard Gere. She was brought up her grandparents in Sichuan after her parents separated during the Cultural Revolution. She joined the People’s Liberation Army at age 13; entertained troops in Tibet; participated in the Tiananmen Square demonstrations; and fled after the crackdown to Los Angeles, where she learned English and worked as a waitress. Her film first role was in The Crow. She also appeared in Wild, Wild West, Anna and the King and appears in the film version of Shanghai Baby. At a film festival in Berlin she took off her clothes so often she was dubbed by one German tabloid as Berlinackte (“The Berlinnaked”)

Among the famous Chinese-American actors are Jack Soo who appeared in Barney Miller and B.D. Wong who was in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Among the non-Chinese who played Chinese roles are Micky Rooney who played an buck-toothed, old Asian guy in Breakfast at Tiffanys. The sleuthing detective Charlie Chan was one of the first Hollywood Chinese characters. He was played by men with names like Sidney Toler and Warner Oland.

Anna May Wong was a star during the silent era. She retired in 1928 saying, "I was tired of parts I had to play. Why is it that on the screen the Chinese are nearly always the villain and so cruel a villain---murderous, treacherous, a snake in the grass” We are not like that. How could we be, with a civilization so many times older than that of the West” We have our rigid code of behavior, of honor. Why do they never show those on the screen?" Lucy Liu is Chinese American. She was born in Queens.

Tang Wei, the actress in Lust Caution, won Taiwan’s Golden Horse award for best new performer in 2007. In 2008 she as black-listed in China for her gymnastic sex scenes in the film.

The Hong Kong singer-actor Edison Chen caught the attention of many when photos were released that showed him having sex with several women.

Donnie Yen has become the box office king of action films since his box office breakthrough Ye Wen (2008),

Jay Chou---a Taiwanese pop star adored across China---was chosen to star alongside Seth Rogen in The Green Hornet, instead of someone like Jet Li, who is far more recognizable in the west, but less marketable back home.

Image Sources: Wikipedia, fan and Asian film websites and blogs

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated January 2013

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