Zhang Ziyi is rapidly emerging one of Asia’s brightest stars – not to mention most beautiful. Following me glowing performance in Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” Ziyi will wow international audiences as the main villain in the all-new “Rush Hour 2”. The beautiful, impeccably attired star, talked to Paul Fischer in Los Angeles.
Question: Did you have fun doing this movie?
Zhang: Very fun. Because we had a very warm and cute director and also a – cute in the lively sense. And also to have two co-stars that were just amazing, Jackie and Chris.
Question: How was working with Chan?
Zhang: Starting off, to me it’s a great honour because I am in fact a fan of his too, but I found out working with him that he’s highly experienced, highly intelligent and he’s not just an actor. He’s an all around filmmaker and he was able to help me with all the action sequences and he knew what camera angles were best to get the right scene and be close up or far away wide shot. It was just to me in awe and just an amazing experience working with somebody that is just so all around experience and capable.
Question: How does his style compare to the Crouching Tiger wirework?
Zhang: The difference was definitely significant in the sense that the Rush Hour 2 action sequences and the martial artistry is more hand to hand direct contact sort of combative action sequences whereas with Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, they were more sort of beautiful artistic shots. They were more choreographed and more artistic and fluid so the feeling is definitely different and the style is different so I was feeling that of course the end result which you’ll see on the screen will be different.
Question: How surprised were you by the success of Crouching Tiger?
Zhang: I thought it was very surprising, especially when it hit the American audience. It was played in so many theatres and just had such a grand exposure, especially as an artist when I was filming it, nobody really thought to that magnitude and expected what the response and audience reception would be. Then when it was received it was very positive and rewarding to know that the American audiences really took to the scenery and the cinematography and the artistry and the martial arts and the storyline, the dramatic romance and emotional aspects of the film all seemed to be. It was very pleasantly rewarding to know that it was received so well.
Question: Is the acceptance of Chinese culture important to you?
Zhang: Yes, to me as an actress and to me as a Chinese, it’s very important and to me in every part of all my work, it’s very important that I am able to express and convey through the work and through the end product, Chinese culture to the American or the international audience.
Question: Is national acceptance also important?
Zhang: I said of course it’s very important to me, especially as an Asian film and maybe broadening the American audiences’ appreciation and appeal for Asian films, but then given the fact that the Crouching Tiger film is so unique and so complex in its conveyance of the Asian culture, martial arts, story and all that kind of stuff that it may make it so that the appetite is only for that type of film, which would then make it difficult for Asian films to come out because they may not necessarily be of the same type. I hesitate to use the word .calibre’ but in terms of as a barrier for the openness to just Asian films as a general versus the same type of vein. And because right now there are a lot of maybe even five, six or seven films in Asian in the works that are sort of titles like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, but yet the team may not be so vast and complete and thorough in terms of the directors, the actors and the cinematography and all that kind of stuff which means that they’ll come and be on a different level and then the audience would be anxious to see it based on the popularity of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, but might be disappointed and then make it sort of hard and difficult and a cheap imitation.
Question: Are you attached to the prequel to Crouching Tiger?
Zhang: I hope Ang Lee lets me do it again.
Question: Compare working with Ang Lee to working with Zhang Yimou.
Zhang: It was my first film with him, so it was a new experience. It was only my second year in university so it was very enlightening in the sense that he taught me about the filming experience but at the same time he wanted to keep me as natural as possible so he didn’t give me the script in advance and pretty much let me be comfortable in me skin. Then each day when I came to set he would explain to me what the scene was about and then allow me to act it out without too much pressure from the night before in terms of having to prepare the lines and everything like that. So, he wanted to really capture me in a natural sense. Working with Ang Lee on the other hand was a little bit different. He was much more meticulous and thorough. A month even before shooting began he had me read the script and memorize the script and then while they were shooting, everything was all planned out, and he had me improvise a lot and in the editing would pick out the scenes that he felt would be appropriate, but it was very well though out and planned and organized.
Question: Did you think about a career in America?
Zhang: There wasn’t any real sort of thought out plan to want to come and break through into the American market. It was more or less first off the opportunity to shoot Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was purely based on the opportunity to work with Ang Lee. That was the first and foremost reason why I took on that project. And then, from that project onto Rush Hour 2, it was something that I would never have fathomed because I would never have conceived to do a Hollywood western film due to me English language capabilities. But yet when the opportunity came to me, as long as it was something where there wouldn’t be too much dialogue intensive of the role, was something that I would definitely be willing and interested to do and I am definitely interested to further develop my career in the Hollywood, Western market but it would all depend on me English definitely.
Question: What do you look for now as an actress?
Zhang: No action. I don’t want to do any martial arts action. Something without it. I actually am surprised and not really quite cognizant of how it came about that I have picked so many characters that are so action related. It wasn’t necessarily something that I had planned, but at the same time in the future if I could do some roles that had a bit of action and then had a bit of serious dramatic roles, I would love to be able to do one and then the kind of a role that maybe had both. It is a trap if I become too identified too much with martial arts, which is why I would want to do more dramatic roles.