ad info

TIME Asia Home
Current Issue
Magazine Archive
Asia Buzz
Travel Watch
Web Features
  Photo Essays

Subscribe to TIME
Customer Services
About Us
Write to TIME Asia
TIME Canada
TIME Europe
TIME Pacific
TIME Digital
Latest CNN News

Young China
Olympics 2000
On The Road

  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia

Other News
From TIME Asia

Culture on Demand: Black is Beautiful
The American Express black card is the ultimate status symbol

Asia Buzz: Should the Net Be Free?
Web heads want it all -- for nothing

JAPAN: Failed Revolution
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori clings to power as dissidents in his party finally decide not to back a no-confidence motion

Cover: Endgame?
After Florida's controversial ballot recount, Bush holds a 537-vote lead in the state, which could give him the election

TIME Digest

TIME Asia Services
Subscribe to TIME! Get up to 3 MONTHS FREE!

Bookmark TIME
TIME Media Kit
Recent awards

TIME Asia Asiaweek Asia Now TIME Asia story


'I Felt Like a Mouse and Ang Lee was a Lion'
Zhang Ziyi on acting, stardom and Richard Gere

Edko Columbia Tristar
Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi is ready to light up the world's stage

At 20, Zhang Ziyi is already poised to become China's top actress. The star of director Ang Lee's new film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Zhang steals the show from co-stars Chow Yun-fat and Michelle Yeoh. She speaks with Time Asia reporter Stephen Short about the pressures of filming and her determination to master English before a possible career move to Hollywood

TIME: You must have been pretty scared when you got picked to work alongside star actors Chow Yun-fat and Michelle Yeoh and the director Ang Lee?
I was very scared. The director chose me although he didn't really know me. At least with Yun-fat or Yeoh, he knew what the outcome would be. I felt pressure, a pressure not to disappoint the director. I felt like I was a mouse and Ang Lee was a lion. It was daunting.

TIME: In which scene do you do your best acting?
It's when I first meet Michelle Yeoh, when she comes to me to seek out the sword. Although I know the whole story because I stole the sword, I have to play innocent. I have to pretend I know nothing. I like that scene very much. The bamboo scene too is very unusual. I had to swing up and down, swirl, and remember to try and act at the same time. It was physically very demanding on me to act while fighting.

TIME: You're perched on the mantelpiece of stardom, more so than [Chinese actress] Gong Li ever was at your age. What are your priorities?
The first thing I have to do is learn English. If I can grasp command of the language, then perhaps I can think about the U.S. I think times are different now from Gong Li's day. Chinese cinema has been rising for some time, has more exposure, and therefore my chances of becoming internationally known are better.

Rebel Without a Cause
Teen hearthrob Nicholas Tse on movies, Faye Wong and Hong Kong's 'It-girl'

And The Winner Is ...
Q&A with Wong Kar-wai, director of In the Mood for Love

Comment: Hardball
China once again throws the ball back in Taiwan's court
'A Moment of Dignity and Hope': ROC President Chen Shui-bian's inauguration speech

Letter from Beijing: Ancient Treasures
Newly found tomb may be that of a Han king

Tsui Hark: 'You Have To Touch People With Film'
The Hong Kong film director on sex, violence and leading ladies

Ordinary Heroes
The Hong Kong Film Awards ceremony offers the spectacle of some working-class stars having a good time

Jet Li: The World Is My Oyster
Web-only Exclusive: Hong Kong action hero Jet Li is set for stardom in his first big Hollywood role in Romeo Must Die

TIME: Are you feeling any marketing/media pressure right now?
I don't mind being called the 'Little Gong Li.' Westerners think we are similar. But I feel no pressure. Though I really have to learn English.

TIME: What do your parents do? Are they artistic?
No. My father's an economist and my mother's a kindergarten teacher.

TIME: And what do they think of what you're doing?
They realize it's a very good opportunity for me and I think they are comfortable with that.

TIME: When did you first come to know [Chinese director] Zhang Yimou?
In 1997. He had to make a shampoo commercial and he sent an assistant director around Beijing's acting and performing institutions for casting. We arranged a time to meet at 1 o'clock but I got the time confused and thought it was 3 o'clock. When I arrived I was two hours late and everyone had gone -- I was worried. Then I phoned the assistant director and asked why no one had waited and he said, 'God, lady, please, you're two hours late.' So I said, 'O.K., forget about it.' Then the assistant said, 'No, maybe Zhang Yimou can see you another time.' So I went for another casting session a few days later, which I thought was just going to be me and him, but when I got there the room was full of people. Yimou was very casual and frank.

TIME: I heard Zhang Yimou recommended you to Ang Lee for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?
Not really. I knew Ang Lee was making a movie in Beijing but at the time I did not feel a great urge to get involved. I knew very little about it. Then when I was at the Beijing Film Studio one day, some pictures were taken of me and they got sent to Ang. Later, I was asked to attend a casting.

TIME: How much did you get paid for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?
I think when you work with such well-known directors, that's payment enough.

TIME: What's next for you?
Well, I just finished shooting Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain II for [Hong Kong] director Tsui Hark. It also stars Cecilia Cheung, Ekin Cheng, Sammo Hung et cetera.

TIME: Is it in Mandarin or Cantonese?
It's in Cantonese, and I was the only person speaking Mandarin. It was quite frustrating and painful to shoot as I couldn't understand much of what the others were saying, and I just had to try and follow the sounds and ask what was going on.

TIME: And after that?
In August I start shooting a film by a Korean director in which I'll be the only Chinese actress. I play a princess living in the Ming dynasty, and I have to run away from turmoil and political war. I've heard the film won't be released in Beijing. I think it's a really special opportunity to make a non-Chinese film. I like Korean and Japanese movies and their production methods. They're very exciting.

TIME: Which Western actors do you admire?
When I was very small, I remember watching Richard Gere in the film Sommersby. I like him a lot.

TIME: I know you went to see Ridley Scott's Gladiator. Did you enjoy it?
Very much. It was spectacular. I cried and cried. There was a Westerner sitting next to me and he was crying too. It was strange to be in that situation.

Cover: Instant Classic
Taiwan filmmaker Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is not only a star- studded epic, but also a rule- bending masterpiece that weds martial arts with sense and sensibility
All Aboard for the Zhang High Express: Actress Zhang Ziyi sizzles
'I Felt Like a Mouse and Ang Lee was a Lion': Zhang Ziyi on acting, stardom and Richard Gere in this web-only exclusive interview
'It's Emotional and Dramatic': Michelle Yeoh is no stranger to action-packed films, but the going was tough in Ang Lee's surefire hit

Asia's Fine Performance
The region's filmmakers score big at this year's Cannes festival, winning four of the top prizes (6/5/2000)

Back to China
In the martial-arts drama Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee and a cast of big stars struggle with moviemaking on the mainland (11/29/99)

On Set With Ang Lee
Elaborate sets, derring-do and big stars are all found in the martial-arts drama "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"

TIME: Did you see Red Corner with one of your counterparts Bai Ling, because that film was banned in China, wasn't it?
Yes it was. I have seen it though on video.

TIME: How do you rate [Canto-pop diva] Faye Wong?
I like her. I have all her albums.

TIME: Any other Hong Kong stars?
Leslie Cheung. I love Leslie Cheung. I met him once in Beijing at an MTV dinner. We went out for dinner once but we didn't talk much about moviemaking. I'd love to make a film with him though.

TIME: I'll tell him that. Did you ever have his poster on your bedroom wall in Beijing?
No, but I have his CDs et cetera I first heard him on an album which I think is called Rich in Love, or something like that. He sings with not just his voice, but with passion and from his heart. I had to ask my classmates whose voice it was and they told me it was Leslie Cheung. Then I started trying to see his movies.

TIME: Do you have any projects after the Korean movie?
I think it's a little too early to say at this point. Nothing is confirmed yet. Also, I'm very keen on making movies with great directors, so I don't want to take scripts casually. I want them to be special.

TIME: Do you watch a lot of Hong Kong films?
Hong Kong movies are a mix of commercial and arty films. A lot of it is not meaningful and valuable to me for that reason. I like movies like In The Mood For Love which have a small audience, but I couldn't really follow it that closely. It was in Cantonese with French -- but the acting was expressive and the whole impression of the film was elegant.

TIME: Could you live in Hong Kong?
Forget it. I want to be with friends and I have no friends or relatives there.

Features Home | TIME Asia home


Quick Scroll: More stories from TIME, Asiaweek and CNN


U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN

Back to the top   © 2000 Time Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.