Sunday, September 02, 2007

Zhou Xun returns

After disappearing under the movie radar for a year, the Chinese actress, last seen in The Banquet, now stars in a new mystery thriller.

IT has been a year since moviegoers have seen China-born actress Zhou Xun on the big screen. After her last outing in last year’s period epic The Banquet, starring opposite fellow Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi and Hong Kong-based actor Daniel Wu, she took a break from films to recharge. The 30-year-old is back in action, acting in a mystery thriller Li Mi De Zao Yu (Li Mi’s Encounters).

Zhou Xun on her character in The Banquet: ‘In her era, she could not choose how to live her life. I’m glad that I have a choice.’ In the indie directed by newcomer Cao Baoping, she plays a cabby whose boyfriend goes missing, only to realise that he is a drug trafficker.

Over the phone from the set in Yunnan, China, recently, Zhou’s deep, sonorous voice is clear and bright. “The title of Li Mi’s Encounters intrigued me – what kind of encounters did she have? That made me want to go back to the movies.” The year’s hiatus has not been really a holiday, she laments. For the past year, besides reading scripts, Zhou, one of China’s hottest actresses, has also travelled to cities such as Barcelona and Paris for fashion events and magazine shoots.

She remarks: “As an actress, the line between your work and your life is blurred. You are on holiday, but because of the nature of the job, you attract attention.” Because of her frequent travels to Europe, rumours have surfaced that she secretly married her boyfriend of three years, Taiwanese stylist Li Da-chih, 37.

She laughs when you mention that. “The paparazzi love to exaggerate. The funniest one I’ve heard was an elaborate French wedding that I didn’t have,” she says. “To me, reporters are just curious, and want to send their blessings. I’m not too bothered.” For the record, the couple are “getting along very well”, but marriage is not yet on the cards due to their busy schedules. Zhou says: “I value freedom a lot, and I like doing things on a whim. I haven’t thought too much about it.”

Her bohemian personality is a huge contrast from that of her character Qing Nu in The Banquet – the daughter of a palace official who observes social norms to a T, torn between the man she loves and obeying her father’s wishes. Zhou compares herself with Qing: “She is a victim of circumstance. In her era, she could not choose how to live her life. In this day and age, I’m glad that I have a choice.”

Zhou Xun on her character in The Banquet: ‘In her era, she could not choose how to live her life. I’m glad that I have a choice.’

Born in Zhejiang, the graduate of Zhejiang Arts Institute made her film debut with Inside an Old Grave (1991), a made-in-China horror movie. However, it was not until she starred in Chinese arthouse director Lou Ye’s film noir Suzhou River (2000) that critics sat up and took notice. Her fame soared in 2002, after she played the spunky heroine Huang Rong of novelist Louis Cha’s wuxia stories in the drama serial Legend of the Condor Heroes. The Chinese media then dubbed her – together with actresses Zhang, Vicki Zhao Wei and Xu Jinglei – as one of the four most promising female stars in the country.

Since then, Zhou has taken on high-profile projects, including Hong Kong musical Perhaps Love (2005), which co-stars Jacky Cheung and Takeshi Kaneshiro, and The Banquet. True to her free-spirited ways, she has no big plans to enter Hollywood, which her peer Zhang has done. “Anything’s fine,” she says nonchalantly. “Be it China, Hollywood or other markets, I don’t mind giving it a try, so long as the script is right.”

By LEE SZE YONG – The Straits Times, Singapore / Asia News Network

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