Friday, December 05, 2008

Zhou Xun on FiRST October 2008 issue

If Zhang Ziyi represents feistiness, and Vicki Zhao exudes tomboyish charm, Zhou Xun's finest point must be elegance. Blessed with saucer-like eyes, mile-long lashes and a trendy China-doll haircut, she looks like she's just stepped off the cover of a high fashion magazine. In fact, the petite actress recently graced the cover of China's May edition of Vogue, sealing her reputation as a fashion icon. Today, she's dressed in a Pucci-inspired top, black cigarette pants and sky-high heels that make us worry for her safety. But of course, she never falls, posing gamely for pictures and balancing on her platforms as though she's been wearing them all her life. Her intense gaze, gamine features and bold outfit all work together to create the portrait of a movie star-cum-fashionista.

As fashion-forward as she is, though, Zhou's passion lies with acting – and campaigning for green living. Named the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador with a special focus on the environment, she chose to support the cause after watching Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth. "I realised that everybody has a part to play in sustaining the earth," she says. "So I wanted to use my influence to fulfil this responsibility, to prevent wastage and environmental damage." She's even quipped that to do her part, she "wears the same dress to many events, so as not to buy in excess!"

While in Singapore for the Garden Festival, Zhou's also plugging her other career – movies. Her latest project, Painted Skin, is director Gordon Chan's take on the classic King Hu film. Playing a nine-tailed fox demon who falls in love with a general (Chen Kun), Zhou slowly turns him against his wife (Vicki Zhao). Qi Yuwu adds to the love triangle as Zhou's demonic companion who is in love with her, but has his affections unreturned. Meanwhile, demon slayers Donnie Yen and Sun Li do their best to hunt the pair down, as Zhou's demoness eats a human heart every day to keep herself young. Painted Skin, one of the chilling tales from Chinese novel Strange Tales of Liaozhai, is known for its supernatural bent, something that Zhou felt instinctively drawn to.

"I watched the original Painted Skin when I was younger," she shares. "I was fascinated by that world, even though my mother covered my eyes at the most frightening parts. I was riveted by it, and I had a real curiosity for its mystery. I was interested to make Painted Skin because the director told me that he didn't want to make a horror film. Instead, he was interested in what it said about love and relationships. The film is about love in the midst of war, and love as a form of release. I didn't want to think of my character as a seductress or schemer. The director chose me precisely because he didn't want someone who looked like an evil seductress. That way, Chen Kun could bring me home and believe that I wasn't a fox demon."

When asked about her co-stars, Zhou is full of admiration for Zhao and Qi. "Vicki's great with her crying scenes. She can cry on cue and let her tears roll for 20 minutes straight! The director was very impressed!" recalls Zhou with a laugh. "As for Qi Yuwu, he really gets into the realism of a scene. I had to hit him really hard in one scene and he told me not to hold back. Was it painful? I think you have to ask him yourself," she drawls, a hint of mischief in her eyes.

Ask about her personal life though, and Zhou gets a little more tight-lipped. When queried about whether she attracts as many suitors as her on-screen character, she gives a diplomatic answer: "I have lots of male friends, just as I have lots of female friends." Zhou's special "male friend" is in fact Li Daqi, a Taiwanese stylist whom she's dated for the last few years. Li even accompanied Zhou to the Singapore Garden Festival's Presidential Dinner, leading fans to call out on the red carpet: "Zhou Xun and Li Daqi, you look like the Prince and Princess Margaret!"

Royalty or not, Zhou has definitely got her act down. Having sung opposite Takeshi Kaneshiro and Jacky Cheung in Peter Chan's musical film Perhaps Love, played two roles in Ming Ming, and stole the thunder from Zhang Ziyi in The Banquet, Zhou continues to weave a spell on audiences with her performances. Zhou will show her chops in the upcoming Tsui Hark chick flick She Ain't Mean, along with Gwai Lun Mei (Secret) and Kitty Zhang (CJ7).

As time runs out, we pose one final question to the feather-light Zhou: Is she a fragile person? Tipping the scales at a mere 41kg, the actress answers with surprising confidence. "I think everyone has a fragile side. But I'm not afraid of many things, so I don't have many weak moments. My parents raised me to be proud of who I am, even though I carry scars around with me." Spoken like a true queen of hearts.

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