HONG KONG — Chinese thespian Zhang Ziyi has been named Actress of the Decade by organizers of CineAsia, the annual three-day regional distributors and exhibitors trade show that began here on Tuesday.
In 1999, it was at CineAsia where the then-little-known graduate of the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing was awarded the Star of Tomorrow prize, said the event’s chief organizer Robert Sunshine.
“It’s a nice story. The next year, her career bloomed with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and everybody in the world knew who she was. It’s nice to have her back at CineAsia 10 years later,” Sunshine said.
Since Taiwan-American director Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger grossed $213 million worldwide in 2000, China’s domestic film industry has been trying to repeat its export success. Though few Chinese films have crossed over to the West commercially, Zhang’s career outside China, and her role as an ambassador for Chinese film, has blossomed.
For her performance in the lead role of Sayuri in Rob Marshall’s film adaptation based on the international bestseller Memoirs of a Geisha, Zhang overcame controversy in Japan and China about a Chinese woman portraying a Japanese courtesan and drew nominations for a 2006 Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a BAFTA.
At home, Zhang has worked with the two leading directors of China’s fifth generation, Zhang Yimou (The Road Home, 1999, and The House of Flying Daggers, 2004), and Chen Kaige (Forever Enthralled, 2008), and also with the hottest director of the sixth generation, Feng Xiaogang (The Banquet, 2006), himself recipient of the CineAsia Filmmaker of the Decade Award.
In 2046, directed by Wong Kar Wai, Zhang played the female lead and won the Hong Kong Film Critics’ Best Actress Award and the Hong Kong Film Academy’s Best Actress Award in 2004.
The 31-year-old actress who last year appeared in the 2009 Chinese box office hit romantic comedy Sophie’s Revenge is taking time off to go to CineAsia from filming Wong’s version of the life of Bruce Lee’s trainer, Ip Man, set to be called The Grandmasters.
Zhang recently finished shooting director Gu Changwei’s AIDS drama and is expected to begin filming soon on an English-language live-action version of the classic tale of Mulan from Hollywood director Jan De Bont and Beijing-based Bona Film Group, which is expected to list on the New York Stock Exchange early in 2011.
The daughter of an accountant turned-economist and a kindergarten teacher, Zhang grew up in Beijing where she started performing as dancer when she was nine years old.
Zhang will accept her CineAsia award in a closing night ceremony for the trade show at the Hong Kong Trade and Convention Center.