Thursday, January 31, 2008

ICE COLD IN HENGDIAN : On location for ‘Painted Skin’ (part 2)

Painted Skin is based on a story by Pu Song-ling. The tales of supernatural horrors collected in his Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio have inspired numerous film adaptations, including the classic A Chinese Ghost Story (and its sequels), Li Han-hsiang’s Enchanting Shadow and King Hu’s Cannes award-winning A Touch Of Zen. Painted Skin (Hua Pi) was previously filmed by Fong Pao (in 1966) and again, in 1993, as the final film of King Hu. The current version is a Hong Kong-Chinese co-production, and its to the credit of director Gordon Chan’s script that the project was approved by the state censors, who tend to frown on stories focusing on ‘superstitious’ elements.

The huge set for this incarnation of Painted Skin, being shot on a soundstage in Hengdian World Studios, recreates the Chinese ‘hanging coffins’ found in Fujian, Hebei and elsewhere. This interior is actually colder than a lot of the exteriors I’ve visited, which makes the warm greeting from director Gordon Chan all the more welcome. (To the surprise of many, he is still talking to me after The Medallion debacle…) Gordon gives me the full tour, and explains how the primary tribes responsible for the real hanging coffins appear to have been wiped out as the result of some dynastic upheaval. This film marks the first time (I think) that they’ve provided the setting for an action sequence.

(I’m not a great believer in the supernatural, but every time I try to take a picture of the hanging coffins, the images on my camera are obscured by these silver discs, some of which seem have faces in them...)

I tell Gordon that we’re planning a Dragon Dynasty re-issue of his Fist Of Legend, and he promises to record a commentary with me. (You read it here first, folks…) I ask him where I can get a decent cup of coffee. Hangzhou Starbucks, he deadpans, five hour round trip. (It sounds like he’s been thinking about making it…)

Donnie Yen is setting up a scene in which he wields what looks like the exact same halberd that I froze my hands on in the props room. (I note he’s wearing gloves. Smart guy…) He moves with his usual expert grace, and seems oblivious to the arctic conditions. At his side is Li Sun (AKA Betty Sun), who played the blind girl in Jet Li’s Fearless. This time, she actually gets to go into action herself as a lady shaman. Surprisingly, Donnie has never before worked with Gordon Chan, but he and the film’s action director, Tung Wai, previously collaborated on the Dragon Dynasty hit Seven Swords. DP Arthur Wong, who just did such awesome work on Peter Chan’s Warlords, sits behind his monitor, looking simultaneously cold and cool. (I just wish I could manage that…)

I’d seen Donnie a week earlier at his daughter’s birthday party. Dressed in his vagabond warrior attire (‘I’m this films Johnny Depp’, observes, referencing the Jack Sparrow character from Pirates of the Caribbean.), he leads me to blessed warmth of his trailer (actually, his tent, this is a Chinese movie set, after all…). We discuss the plans for our upcoming Dragon Dynasty release of his film Flashpoint, and his hopes for the forthcoming ‘Yip Man’, a kung fu movie based on the life of the legendary Wing Chun kung fu master (and teacher of Bruce Lee). He tells me how much he’s enjoying working with Gordon Chan on Painted Skin. (I had previously tried to get the two together on the film 2000AD, back in my Media Asia days, but studio politics intervened.)

Donnie introduces me to Li Sun. ‘How are you?,’ she says. ‘Pleased to meet you.’ I ask her where she learned English. ‘I’m from Shanghai,’ she replies, clearly proud of her cosmopolitan home city. She tells me what a challenge it is performing martial arts movie action for the first time, especially opposite Donnie Yen. Tell me about it…, I mutter to myself.

Zhao Xun (star of The Banquet AKA Legend of the Black Scorpion) isn’t working today, so I don’t get to meet her. I do get to chat with the lovely Zhao Wei, AKA Vicki Zhao, best-known to international audiences for her role in Stephen Chiau’s Shaolin Soccer. Having shot a number of films in Hong Kong, this Wuhu-native speaks Cantonese as well as Mandarin, so we can converse in that language. Zhao just played a Mulan-style woman warrior in John Woo’s epic Red Cliff, which was, by all accounts, a long, tough shoot. Is Painted Skin an easier ride? ‘You can’t say that,’ she observes. ‘Every film with period costumes and action is very tough.” Especially when it’s this cold? “Definitely!”

I’ve almost frozen my blood checking out this Painted Skin, and I’ve only been there a day. I spare a prayer for the cast and crew labouring in the winter to blend horror and action for your entertainment. The weather report says it’s raining in Hong Kong, which means it isn’t freezing, which is just fine by me…



ICE COLD IN HENGDIAN : On location for ‘Painted Skin’.

I emerge from the Hangzhou airport into China’s coldest Winter in 50 years. Its only a two hour flight from Hong Kong, but feels like a complete climate change. I’ve visited the Hengdian World Studios several times before, but the two and a half hour ride to hotel has never seemed longer. Living in Asia, I’ve lost my tolerance for what the northern English call ‘brass moon-key’ weather…

As we ride through the generally featureless terrain, I note that a disproportionate number of the new houses visible from the road have spires built onto them, as though they’re each one lost corner of an unfinished castle.

The Hengdian International Conference Centre Deluxe Hotel advertises itself as being a four star facility. For what were these stars awarded, I wonder? Zero room service? Vast, empty echoing corridors? Unheated rooms in the depths of winter? This place has it all… When you consider the scale of the films that have been shot at the studios (Hero, Dragon Tiger Gate, The Promise, DOA, the forthcoming Forbidden Kingdom and Mummy 3), you’d suppose that the facilities would have been upgraded to match. Word is that a number of major brands wanted to sell franchises in the area, but the local power brokers have declined to cede power, or potential revenue, to them. Having stashed my bags, I repair to the (relative) comforts of the Bonny CafĂ©. I had dinner with David Carradine last time I was in Hengdian. (There’s now a framed photo of him with the staff, commemorating the two films he shot there, Son Of The Dragon and White Crane.)

Whatever my gripes about the accommodation, the studio itself is truly extraordinary. Stretching over 49,5995 square metres, it contains a full scale replica of the Forbidden City, first seen in Hero, and a massive indoor Buddha statue, which is billed as being the world’s largest. (I wonder where the second largest is…?) The following morning, I get up to play my Tai Chi and spread some energy into my frozen limbs. The golden sun gleams off the replicated pagodas and towers of an older, perhaps wiser China. By the time my whole body is steaming, I’m ready to face the day. (Now, if only there was a decent cup of coffee to be had…)

I’m in Hengdian to visit the set of Painted Skin, a period supernatural actioner being helmed by Gordon Chan, starring action idol Donnie Yen, and three of China’s hottest leading ladies, Zhao Wei (Shaolin Soccer), Zhao Xun (The Banquet AKA Legend of the Black Scorpion) and Li Sun (Fearless). (I’d like to be able to tell you that Gordon and Donnie were the main attraction drawing me to visit the set…)

I’m met at the hotel by a group of producers for the film, and we go on a tour of those areas of the back lot being used for Painted Skin. We cross paths with a tour bus, containing shivering but happy film fans who have paid to see where their favourite movies were shot. These tours sometimes feature guest appearances by Chinese actors, and live recreations of scenes from the films shot at Hengdian.

Donnie Yen told me how, when he was making Dragon Tiger Gate, he was getting his make-up done one early morning, when he opened his eyes and saw two men passing. One was dressed like Jet Li’s character in Hero, and the other like his own. What film am I making?, he wondered to himself. The guys turned out to be stuntmen, and they were recreating the Hero courtyard fight between Jet and Donnie, five times a day.

As the producers and I are about to ascend a tower for an over-view of the back lot, a few of the tourists want to take a photo with me. They think you’re Jason Statham, one of my guides explains, sheepishly. ‘Coming soon,” I tell them. ‘Transporter 3! Don’t miss it…’

After wending our way through the apparently limitless expanse of back lot (it literally stretches as far as the eye can see), we board our bus and head to the Painted Skin set. As we approach, I realize that the scene is being filmed on the exact same soundstage used for the finale of Dragon Tiger Gate. It actually seems colder inside (if that’s possible) than it was on the street set. A row of tent-like structures have been set up, and they seem to be positively glowing with heat. I’m eyeing this refuge longingly, but the producers want to show me the props from the film.

A long hall is packed with carefully organized rows of helmets, armour, (presumably) fake antiques. There are weapons leaning against the wall. Bey knows martial arts!, exclaims one of my hosts, pointing at a metal halberd. Everyone claps. I feel stiffer than the Tin Man before he got the oil, but grasp the weapon and oblige with a few moves from Lau Gar Kwan. Everyone claps again, and one of the producers reaches out to shake my hand. Unfortunately, the weapon’s metal shaft is now frozen to the skin of my ungloved palms. I decide I either have to thaw it off, or else this is going to take some explaining on the flight home…



Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Zhou Xun finishes shooting "Painted Skin"

Recently Zhejiang province has got rain and fog but such bad weather didn't affected filming process of movie Painted Skin because the majority of scenes were shot in rooms. Leading actors Chen Kun, Zhou Wei and Zhou Xun respectively finished their final scenes.

Photo from Chen Kun's blog

It was reported the story of Painted Skin hapened in the end of the year and although there was sleet in Hendian, staffs had to use artificial snow. Zhou Xun who had the final scene, received warm applause and said in the interview:"On recent days, the temprature is low and it rains all the time. Moreover, many scenes were implemented at night and some subtitutes were injured but all people worked as the one, tried the best to complete all before Spring Festival.

Bad weather didn't affected filming process but made Zhou Xun's schedule changed. She had to stay in Hendian because she couldn't get ticket to Beijing. She said that she would be Beijing in Spring festival and prepare for new movie directed by Hark Tsui "Women are not bad"



Saturday, January 26, 2008

Zhou Xun will make her mark with the role in Painted Skin

Zhou Xun is considered as a talent and lovely actress in Chinese cinema. Now she plays as a devil in the movie "Painted Skin" directed by Gordon Chan, the media expressed worry. There were some articles said that in the movie Zhou Xun wore white dress. Making her similar to traditional devils and increasing terrior, movie staffs decided made her nails very long. Howerver, her performance was not very good.

Zhou Xun herself doesn't care these news and pay all attention to her role. As the photo below, out of scene, she was relaxing while reading some notes. Wearing a sweater and fashionable hat, she didn't look like a strange devil at all. Luckily, she is the actress that expresses her talent through many characters and prizes. We can absolutely believe that she will make her mark with the role in this movie.

Enjoy some new photos of Painted Skin

Xiao Xun



Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Zhou Xun in Hometown on Cover of Debut Magazine

2008-01-18 12:56:17

Actress Zhou Xun shoots cover photos for a debut magazine in her hometown Quzhou in eastern China's Zhejiang Province. The actress says she left the city for the provincial capital Hangzhou in 1991 and then went to Beijing in 1993.



Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Launch Ceremony of "Women are not bad"

Director Hark Tsui led 3 beautiful actresses: Zhou Xun, Gui Mei Lun and Zhang Yu Qi in the launch ceremony of "Women are not bad" in Beijing on January 08. The conference which was spent 3 million Yuan began with fashion show of Dior spring clothes. Then Zhou Xun appeared first in black skirt and scarlet stock, Gui Mei Lun wore purple fomal coat and black skirt and Zhang Yi Qi looked sexy in red clothes with white hair. When they all gathered in T-stage, Hark Tsui also stepped onto there. Reporters had opportunity to take a lot of photos of famous director and 3 beautiful actresses.

Why did Hark Tsui decide to make this movie? In the conference he mystically said 2 years ago, when drinking with his fiends, suddenly saw some painting with line "Women are not bad", then he had intention to make a movie.

It was reported in this comedy, three actress' images are dissimilar to their previous roles. Zhou Xun practiced qigong and will play 12 roles such as a pregnant woman, a doctor, a patient, a reporter, a farmer ...etc. Gui Mei Lun is not be a student as in "The secret I cannot tell", she will play a quite barbaric girl. To prepare for this role, she spent time on learning dancing and boxing. Zhang Yu Qi will be an invincible woman but fortune doesn't come up with her.



Chu Chou reporters visited the team of "Painted Skin"

Directed by Gordon Chen with the cast of famous actors: Zhen Yi Dan, Zhou Xun, Chen Kun, Zhao Wei and Sun Li, the movie "Painted Skin" (a.k.a "Hua pi") was filmed in Hen Dian in the beginning of December last year. As schedule, the movie will be completed shooting in March 2008 and will be released in October.

In the middle of December 2007, Chu Chou reporters took a visit to shooting place of Painted Skin in Hen Dian at 6.15 p.m. At that time all the team was busy with preparing for evening scenes. It was known that all staffs and actors had to work all day and night.

Reporters first saw Chen Kun in black old custom. Some supporting actors wore clothes like him. Playing as Chen Kun's wife, Zhao Wei appeared in black dress with high bun. They would have the first scene this evening. Chen Kun and some warriors entered the room, a servant saw him and shouted "madam, madam", then Zhao Wei went downstairs. The scene looked rather simple but due to director's high requirement, it took them more than 2 hours to finish shooting.

At 8.45 p.m Zhou Xun looked like a beautiful young girl in white dress started to photograph. She smiled and walked toward warriors, gave them some tea and asked them questions. Her performance was natural and the scene went so smoothly that director Chen felt happy.

After Xun's scene, all had a short break. Xun sat next to Chen Kun and they had lively conversation. Director Chen and Zhao Wei then joined the group of them and enjoyed noisy atmosphere. It could be seen Zhou Xun's mood was so good and it was her that made atmosphere of shooting place exciting after sad scene.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Tsui Hark's Focus on Women in New Film

Hong Kong director Tsui Hark was in Beijing on Tuesday to kick off the filming for his new three-woman movie.

The three leading actresses -- Zhou Xun, Zhang Yuqi and Kwai Lun-Mei -- also attended the film's launch party, clad in hippie outfits.

"Nv Ren Bu Huai" ("Women Aren't Bad"), which is yet to receive an official English title, is about three modern women living iconoclastic lifestyles.

The film is considered a follow-up to Tsui's 1986 hit, "Peking Opera Blues," which also features three female characters, played by now-seasoned actresses Brigitte Lin, Cherie Chung, and Sally Yeh.



Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A launch ceremony of "Women are not bad" will be on January 08

After director Hark Tsui said he would make movie "Women are not bad", considered as new version of Peking Opera Blues at Cannes 2006, many rumors about 3 actresses spreaded. Among the candidates, people can see Zhou Xun, Jolin Lai, Lin Yi Ling, Zhang Ba Zhi, Liang Yong Qi, Mo Wenwei...These made audiences cofused. But at the end of December 2007, the final decision of 3 leading actresses was announced: Zhou Xun, Kwai Lun-Mei and Zhang Qi Yu. It was reported the first press conference wuold be held in Bejing on January 08.

As director Hark Tsui said, everthing is this movie, people, costum ...are very fashionable. All momen are not bad. These will attract you.

This launch ceremony and the press conference of Dior08 summer-spring collection will be at the same time so audiences will have opportunity to enjoy 3 actresses' perform on T-stage. They will show what they have practised for their characters in the movie, in which, Zhou Xun learns Qigong, Kwai Lun-mei studies boxing and Zhang Yuqi practises Taichi.



Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Women are not bad - 2008

Director: Hark Tsui
Cast: Zhou Xun, Gui Lun Mei , Zhang Yu Yi
Country: Hong Kong
Language: Mandarin


Zhou Xun on Jessica Jan2008

Enjoy Xiao Zhou on Jessica Jan2008. Credit to


Hark Tsui to shoot new movie

Hong Kong filmmaker Hark Tsui has started working on a new movie, which will star actresses Zhou Xun, Zhang Yuqi and Kwai Lun-mei, according to media reports on Saturday.
Nv Ren Bu Huai, which literally means Women Not Bad is scheduled to start shooting on January 8. A launch ceremony is planned for the same day.

The comedy tells the story of three women in the twenty-first century, and is called a modern version of the director's film classic Peking Opera Blues. The 1986 film was set in China's chaotic 1920s and starred now retired actresses Brigitte Lin, Cherie Chung and Sally Yeh.

South Korea's Jae-young Kwak, who directed the film My Sassy Girl, will work as one of the new film's screenwriters and direct a Korean version of the movie.

Nansun Shi, the movie's producer and wife of Hark Tsui, said the actresses are undergoing training for their roles.

"Kwai Lun-mei is studying boxing and experiencing life with an underground band," she said. "Zhang Yuqi is receiving etiquette training for her role as a career woman."

Although the two actresses are newcomers, they have been the sensations of the year. Kwai Lun-mei starred in Taiwan pop singer Jay Chow's directorial debut Secret, and Zhang Yuqi starred Hong Kong comedian Stephen Chow's sci-fi thriller Yangtze River VII.

"Zhou Xun is squeezing in time between shooting the movie Painted Skin to learn Qigong exercise for Nv Ren Bu Huai," Nansun said.

(, December 30, 2007)


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