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Zhang Ziyi






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Zhang Ziyi - Biography

Zhang Ziyi was born the 9th of February 1980, in Beijing, China, and is the daughter of an economist father and a kindergarten teacher. Raised with her older brother in an urban, working-class part of Beijing, Zhang was originally interested in dance and gymnastics.

Her entrance into the dance world came when she was 11, as she was accepted to a secondary school affiliated with Beijing Dancing College. During the 4 years that she was trained in dance, she managed to pick up some awards, including one at the National Young Dancer competition.

But even though a career in dance seemed promising for the graceful Zhang, she became frustrated with the art by the time she was 15, and opted to act instead.

  • A hair-raising experience

She therefore enrolled in the Central Drama Academy in Beijing, where she received her dramatic training. Zhang Ziyi's calling was answered when she least expected it. She auditioned for a shampoo commercial, directed by Zhang Yimou (one of China's most renowned directors). The director of many successful film, including Raise the Red Lantern, used the commercial as a way to audition actresses for his upcoming film.

Zhang Yimou knew that Zhang Ziyi was the perfect choice for the part of a young, rural schoolgirl in love with a schoolteacher, and she was cast in the lead role of 1999's The Road Home (also known as Wo de fu qim mu qin). Since Zhang Ziyi was unknown at the time of the film's release, it will be re-released with Sony Picture Classics in 2001 thanks to her flourishing success.

When The Road Home was released in China, Zhang Ziyi was given the nickname "Little Gong Li," in reference to the mega-popular Asian actress, Gong Li. While this may sound flattering, the nickname is not intended to refer to Zhang Ziyi's potential as the next Gong Li, rather, it refers to the alleged affair that Zhang Ziyi had with director Zhang Yimou. Gong Li was once considered the director's muse and mistress, but they broke up in 1994. Both Zhang Ziyi and Zhang Yimou have denied the affair.

The Road Home won the Jury Grand Prix Silver Bear at the 2000 Berlin Film Festival.

  • Watch the Dragon fly

When Ang Lee was casting actors for his martial-arts marvel, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, he had famous Taiwanese actress Shu Qi in mind for the role of butt-kicking aristocrat Jen Yu. But after seeing Zhang Ziyi's performance in The Road Home, he knew she'd be the one for the role -- and she probably only exceeded Lee's expectations.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon became one of the biggest hits of 2000 (and the most popular foreign films in US history), and went on to earn a roaring $130 million at the box office and garner 4 Academy Awards, among the long list of awards it won.

The film's success ensured that Zhang Ziyi would become a familiar face to filmgoers, as the high-flying, graceful martial artist who shares fight scenes with Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat and has sex with Chang Chen in the Gobi Desert.

Her role garnered her the Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2000 as well as the MTV Movie Award for Best Fight Scene in 2001. She was also one of People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in the World, in 2001.

  • In a Rush

Zhang Ziyi was cast to play the villain in the summer 2001 sequel to the successful comedy Rush Hour, appearing opposite the comedy duo Chris Tucker and martial arts supreme Jackie Chan. She was cast in the film without knowing a word of English, and despite having taken English lessons, she speaks strictly Chinese in the film (with subtitles).

She will next be seen in another film entitled The Warriors (a.k.a Moosah) (directed by a Korean director), in which she'll portray a princess taken hostage in the period of the war between the Yuan Dynasty and Ming Dynasty, as well as The Legend Of Zu and the futuristic 2046. Zhang Ziyi is also set to co-star with kung-fu superstar Jet Li for the Zhang Yimou epic, Hero.

Her being mentored by these three outstanding directors had helped Zhang come up with screen performances so exceptional that she has begun winning awards.

In the States, she was named Best Supporting Actress at the Independent Spirit Awards, and in Hong Kong, she received a similar honor at the Golden Cercis Award. She was also cited as Most Promising Female Newcomer by the Chicago Film Critics Association--exceptional "official" praise and endorsement for one so young!



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