Cannes: Gong Li to Star in Chinese Volleyball Biopic From Peter Chan

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Gong Li

The actress will play Chinese volleyball legend Lang Ping in the film, which is targeting a release timed to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

One of China's most iconic stars of the screen is set to play one of the country's greatest sports figures.

Gong Li, currently in Cannes to receive the Kering Group's annual Women in Motion award, has signed on to star in a biopic directed by Peter Chan about Chinese volleyball legend Lang Ping.

The film, produced by Chan's We Pictures and Beijing-based JQ Pictures, is targeting a major China theatrical release timed to the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. 

Details of the project are being kept under wraps, and it's unclear which phase or phases of Lang's long career the film will focus on. Nicknamed the “Iron Hammer” in her playing days, she is considered one of her sport's greatest players ever. Lang captained the Chinese women's national volleyball team that won the gold medal over the U.S. at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and she later transitioned to coaching, leading the U.S. national team to a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Chinese national team to a gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She remains the only person, male or female, to have won an Olympic gold as both a player and a coach.

The film doesn't yet have a title in English, but its Chinese working title translates simply as "Chinese Women's Volleyball." The project is scheduled to go into production soon and is said to be casting several active professional Chinese volleyball players to play key roles.

Chinese Women's Volleyball is one of two sports-related projects Chan, a Hong Kong filmmaking legend in his own right, currently has underway. He is also recently wrapped production of a film about retired Chinese tennis star Li Na, the first Grand Slam singles champion from Asia. The latter film co-stars French actor Vincent Cassel, Chinese star Hu Ge and Slovakian tennis champion Dominika Cibulkova.