Chinese Actresses Find Ways to Hollywood

As the Chinese film market celebrates the success of its box office revenue, having made 10 billion yuan at the start of 2011, they have found yet another reason to celebrate – Chinese actress Xu Qing has been confirmed as having a part in the Hollywood blockbuster ‘Looper’.

Actually, Xu Qing’s participation in a Hollywood project was a positive signal as well as a landmark development. Suddenly, the starters gun had been fired and the door to Hollywood was open for Chinese actresses as never before. Several Hollywood films have recruited them to play important parts in big-budget flicks, which are often reported to have sequels in the works.

Following Xu Qing, award-winning actress Zhou Xun will make her appearance in the Hollywood fantasy epic “Cloud Atlas”. Shortly afterwards, Yu Nan confirmed she had landed a role in the “Expendables 2”; the same fate dawned upon “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” actress Li Bingbing just last month, who will showcase her charisma in “Resident Evil: Retribution.” And the good news just keeps coming – the creators of the latest 007 flick have chosen a Chinese actress to be the latest Bond girl.

Five Hollywood blockbusters have all selected Chinese actresses. This has come as a bit of a surprise for those involved with the Chinese film industry, as the way to Hollywood has not always been as smooth as today when looking back at the history of Chinese actresses entering Hollywood.

Prior to 2011, at least 10 actresses spanning several generations have made their way to the sunny boulevards of Hollywood’s dream factories.

Unfortunately, audiences only saw them appear in various cameo roles. Anna Wong May was regarded as the first Chinese actress in the 1920s and 1930s to play in Hollywood films including “The Shanghai Express” though she didn’t cause much of a sensation. Tsai Chin is the only Chinese actress to appear twice in the 007 series but her parts were of no importance.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Chinese faces Joan Chan, Bai Ling and Michelle Yeoh appeared in Hollywood flicks but not as leading actresses.

In recent years, Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi have indeed picked up leading roles. Hollywood big-budget action flick “Miami Vice”, which starred Gong was a flop in terms of box office revenue, while “Rush Hour 2” starring Zhang Ziyi was a victory at the box office, but largely due to the stand-out performances by Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.

To be fair, Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi have taken a big step towards Hollywood by snagging places as leading actress, when compared to their predecessors.

2011 is being considered by experts from the film industry in China as a turning point for actresses fighting to squeeze their way into Hollywood. The consensus is that good luck is coming their way as the Chinese film market prospers.

Hollywood blockbusters “Avatar,” “Transformers 3” and “Expendables” have all generated huge wealth in the rapidly growing Chinese market. Businessmen from Hollywood won’t neglect the great potential of Chinese audiences, and when their leading roles include Chinese actors and actresses, it is no doubt much easier for them to enter the Chinese market.

Maybe in the near future, Chinese actress will become part of mainstream of Hollywood. Let’s wait and see.

Liu Shuai

Chinese Films