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'It's Good to Have Competition'
Taiwanese star Shu Qi on life, the paparazzi and her idol,
actor Chow Yun-fat


Taiwanese star Shu Qi is one of the most overworked celebrities in the Asian entertainment world. The 24-year-old actress and model took time off recently to speak with TIME Asia's Stephen Short about life, the paparazzi and her idol, actor Chow Yun-fat. The interview took place in the dressing room of French design store Lanvin--her latest employer--at Hong Kong's Regent Hotel.

Shu Qi takes time out from her busy schedule

TIME: Hong Kong director Aubrey Lam said she didn't cast you in her recent film Twelve Nights because you were too "sophisticated" an actress. Tsui Hark told me that as well. Do you consider yourself sophisticated?
Shu Qi:
It doesn't matter what they call me, none have asked me to be in one of their movies. Let them hire me, let them cooperate and work with me, and then they can say what they think.

TIME: Why haven't they cast you? You're one of the best actresses in Hong Kong.
I don't know. Can you please ask them for me.

TIME: Sure. What did you think of your last movie, Stanley Kwan's Island Tales. I'm sorry, but I didn't rate the film at all.
I really love the director [Kwan].

TIME: So do I. But what about the film?
I like his films because he's different and his work is very detailed. He's more modern, more contemporary and experimental, and that was a challenge for me an actress in this movie. I used all my skills as an actress but it didn't come out as I expected. My favorite parts all ended up on the cutting room floor.

TIME: What is the best movie, or scene, that you've been in?
None of them.

TIME: None?
Of course, I have good feelings about the making of some films, but in so many ways I feel that my best acting has always ended up on the cutting room floor. And I don't have any control over that. Maybe I'm still improving as an actress.

TIME: What's your next film?
It's a film by Chinese director Hou Hsiao-hsien [of Flowers of Shanghai fame] and it's being shot in Taiwan. There's also another film by Mabel Cheung, who shot The Soong Sisters.

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TIME: I see you've got a website, Do you have any interest in it?
No. I don't like having my own dotcom.

TIME: So why do you have it?
Well, I didn't really have any choice.

TIME: Who do you most want to work with?
The actor Chow Yun-fat. He's my idol. I've heard he has a wonderful personality, and is very kind, and I'd like to work with him and confirm that for myself. I loved him in Anna and the King.

TIME: He's a very charming guy. So I guess you were jealous as hell of Jodie Foster?
A little, but she's an idol of mine too.

TIME: How do you react to all the competition from other actresses such as Gigi Leung and Cecilia Cheung? Do you lose sleep as a result? Do you ever get envious of them?
It's good to have competition, it's healthy. A few years ago I got lots of attention because I was the only young face in Hong Kong. But having no competition is a bad thing. Competition makes you try to improve yourself all the time. Remember we all look very different --our faces, bodies, acting styles--so it's hard to compare us directly. Do you think I've changed or look very different since we last talked about two years ago?

TIME: A little, yes. Your face has matured and your whole persona seems a little more wordly. But then, it was midnight when we met last time and you seemed knackered.
So did you.

TIME: I was. I'd been waiting to talk to you for three hours, but we had to watch the premiere of Gorgeous, the Jackie Chan movie you were in, before we could get it on, so to speak. For my money, you're still the most unusual looking actress in Asia, and I mean that as a very large compliment. I just wish you'd take on different films.
Me too. I don't like these commercial films I do. I'd far prefer to do more artistic films, more cult films.

TIME: But then you're so commercially cast. You spend a lot of time in Japan doing advertising. They seem to love you over there?
I have a lot of Japanese fans, but in Korea they seem to go crazy for me. I don't know what it is, but they seem to like my style.

TIME: Do you buy any of your own clothes, or are companies like Lanvin or Abercrombie & Fitch always giving you them?
It's hard for me to buy things because people often recognize me. I have an assistant who often buys clothes for me.

TIME: You told me last year that you wanted to learn Japanese, go and live there, and make lots of yen. Is that still the case?
No. I'm not really a money-oriented person. The press always write that I am. They don't seem to want to understand that I love the comfort of Japan and love the fact it's more peaceful, less frenzied than Hong Kong.

TIME: Do you love or hate the press?
I hate the press only in Hong Kong. Before they used to be terrible, and it was a disaster but now I think it's a little more fun. I like playing with them, it's a game.

TIME: What's the craziest story you've read about yourself?
Well, it seems they write any story they like...all the time. It's often very negative about me. They say I'm greedy, arrogant, cruel, or that I don't cooperate with other actors or with the press. I wish they'd ask me things directly rather than just keep silent and make it up.

TIME: And that's just in Hong Kong, or everywhere?
Just Hong Kong, but the Taiwan press is getting to be the same way. They're like the sister of the Hong Kong press. But it's different there. Because I am Taiwanese and made the move over to Hong Kong, then I think generally there's more respect, and the people like me much more than here in Hong Kong.

TIME: If it's any consolation, we love you to death.

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