[FILM] Gong Li - Chinese Actress of Great Acclaim and latest information
- AN INTERVIEW WITH CHINA'S TEMPTRESS THESPIAN
by Helen Chang
After playing scores of strong-willed but ill-fated women, Chinese
movie diva Gong Li is looking for a change.
In her first Hollywood deal, the star of Farewell My Concubine,
Shanghai Triad and Temptress Moon hopes to play a more contemporary
character in a film with American actor Richard Gere. The only
problem has been finding a suitable script. Earlier plans to shoot
the film, called Unlocked Doors, got the nix after the producers
(and presumably Gere himself) decided the script just didn't cut it.
Gong says they won't make a decision till sometime next year.
Meanwhile, apart from fulfilling some new duties as the new face of
L'Oreal cosmetics, the diva has been stretching her vocal chords.
Having proved her singing abilities in Shanghai Triad, she is
recording an album of Mandarin songs, scheduled for release by this
year's end. Eventually, Gong says, she'd like write and sing her own
Gong was recently in Singapore, where she opened a Shanghainese
restaurant (Yu Jia Zhuang, in Suntec City). Here, in an exclusive
interview, she talks about Hollywood, acting, directing, and life in
ON THE CRAFT OF ACTING
In your movies, you have an ability to convey emotions and
character, without ever saying a word. Where does this ability come
from? What are you thinking about when you do this?
In acting, a portion of it is talent, another portion is effort, and
another is technique. These are combined together, and then you add
your own special qualities.
Which of these three are most important?
I think your own effort. My (acting) school teaches acting and
drama, each class has 10-20 students, and in each class, you only
have about two that are outstanding. Some things in acting cannot be
taught, you have to rely on your own imagination and talent.
Are you looking for scripts from any particular country?
I don't really care. It doesn't matter what country it's from, as
long as it has a narrative about human character. This is the most
important base to the story. So it doesn't matter where it's from,
as long as the story is good.
ON THE FUTURE AND A CERTAIN RICHARD GERE
You and Richard Gere have plans to appear in a Hollywood film
together. What's happening with that now?
It's a good thing. But the most important thing is that it has to be
appropriate to our role, a story that is appropriate to an Asian and
a Westerner. Not just a story for the sake of having a story,
there's no point it.
It has to be a very good story, appropriate to an Asian and a
Westerner being together. Originally, we were going to shoot at the
end of this year, but they also decided it wasn't any good. There
isn't any point. If it's not good, I'm not going to act in it
He (Gere) is happy and I'm happy that we're going to work together,
but two actors alone don't make a good film. It needs a good story,
good directing, good sets. Now, we don't think it's good. We don't
want to waste this opportunity. We are going to look for a script
that is more appropriate to an Asian and Westerner.
What kinds of new movie roles are you looking for?
I think that what's most important is that I don't want to continue
acting with the same kinds of characters and plots as before,
otherwise I won't improve. There are many roles and characters that
I have not played before. So probably there are some modern roles
that I would be interested in. Sometimes I feel pretty lost, looking
for a script. There hasn't been anything that has particularly
ON THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
Do you have any desire to direct or produce your own films in the
There's a possibility for producing, but not for directing.
Directing has an element of talent, a special side. I don't think I
have that talent. The actors and offstage people are important, and
to make a good movie is difficult.
What do you feel is your purpose in life? What do you hope to
accomplish in your lifetime?
I haven't thought about this before. I think that you only have a
short time. When you're small, you can't really do anything. When
you're old, you have to retire. So you really don't have much time
in between. If you want to do something, then go do it. You have to
cherish your life.
What do you wonder about at night, just before you go to sleep?
I don't think about anything. If I can go to sleep, I'm happy.
Gong Li was born New Year's Eve, December 31, 1965, in Shenyang,
Liaoning Province, China. Raised in Jinan, Gong Li is the daughter
of an economics professor.
The porcelain beauty always dreamed of becoming a singer, and it was
her love of music that led to her applying to China's top music
school. Gong Li was rejected from the music school, but was accepted
to the Central Drama Academy in Beijing, and graduated in 1985.
The relationship between Gong Li and famed Chinese director Zhang
Yimou started when Gong Li was cast in her debut role, as the female
lead in 1987's Red Sorghum, while she was still a student. Zhang
Yimou and Gong Li were romantically involved for years, and he
referred to her as his Muse.
Once she graduated, Gong Li was cast in Terracotta Warrior and The
Puma Action in 1989, Ju Dou in 1990, and Zhang Yimou's Raise the Red
The early '90s were filled with film roles, such as The Banquet, in
which she appeared as herself and a waitress, and Back to Shanghai
in 1991. In 1992, Gong Li starred in the title role of Zhang Yimou's
The Story of Qiu Ju, for which she won a Best Actress Award at the
49th Venice International Film Festival. In what she refers to as
her favorite role, Gong Li spent weeks in a small village and
learned the local language, in order to portray a poor woman.
gong li goes international
After her role in Mary from Beijing, Gong Li gained International
recognition for her role in Chen Kaige's Farewell My Concubine in
1993. She won a New York Film Critics award for the film.
In 1993, Gong Li appeared in Flirting Scholar and Soul of a Painter,
and followed these up with 1994's Living (another Zhang Yimou film),
Dragon Chronicles: The Maidens, and The Great Conqueror's Concubine.
Gong Li's final collaboration with Zhang Yimou was in 1995's
Shanghai Triad, the year her relationship with the director ended.
The '90s rounded off with 1996's Temptress Moon, 1997's Chinese Box
(which she refers to as the least favorite of her films), and 1999's
Breaking the Silence and The Emperor and the Assassin. She is also
said to be planning a film with Richard Gere.
Known as China's most famous actress in the Western world and the
Chinese equivalent of Julia Roberts, Gong Li has a multitude of
international awards to her name, most notably France's highest
cultural honor, the Officier des Arts et des Lettres in 1988.
a gorgeous face
Gong Li is also China's most recognized face, chosen as a
representative of Shanghai Tang clothing and a beauty ambassador for
L'Oreal cosmetics. Not only recognized for her talent, Gong Li is
also known for being one the world's most beautiful women, as People
magazine included her in one of its 50 Most Beautiful People lists.
Though she is no longer with Zhang Yimou (who has since been
allegedly linked to Zhang Ziyi), Gong Li has been happily married to
a wealthy businessman from Singapore, Ooi Wei Ming, since 1996.
Who is Gong Li? At AskMen.com, we pride ourselves on introducing
major stars from around the world, and Gong Li is among them. In
fact, in China, Gong Li is as revered as Julia Roberts is in the
United States. She is the most important actress in Chinese cinema,
though she hasn't appealed much to the US market with the exception
of the critics' darling Farewell My Concubine.
Gong Li has nearly 2 dozen movies to her credit, and a dominant yet
quiet presence onscreen that has only grown with age. We only
noticed her graceful beauty after seeing her in the movie Chinese
Box, starring as the stunningly beautiful temptress Vivian, with co-
star Jeremy Irons.
She has become the best-known female ambassador of Chinese film (and
until the recent success of Zhang Ziyi, its most popular), and that
has given her a vaulted status among the international independent
movie community, and ensured her a regular presence at the Cannes
Though she has been approached on various occasions to work on
a "Hollywood" film, she has yet to bite. A long-awaited
collaboration with Richard Gere on the movie Unlocked Doors is still
in neutral, and unlikely to ever see the light of day. That is sad
news because it denies her the kind of exposure that she merits in
Gong Li's range as an actress might seem limited to an outsider who
will surmise by her movie credits that Chinese period films are her
only calling, but it is in fact the broadness of the characters in
those similarly themed period films that illustrate her talent.
She has played a princess, a peasant, a prostitute, a mother, a
wife, and an adultress. Despite the variety of roles, one common
trait is always present in her roles; she always plays characters
that have character, intelligence, vulnerability, and who have to
transcend some sort of social tension in their lives. She also
meticulously (and almost religiously) researches all her roles, in
due part to the harshness of Chinese critics at any lapse.
Off-screen Gong Li is a shy person who hides from the media. She
might have a reason for her contempt, since the media's continuous
intrusion into her relationship with the much older filmmaker Zhang
Yimou led to her almost quitting showbusiness.
Her sex appeal (to all that know her) has little to do with her
showing cleavage, doing revealing movie roles, or dressing
audaciously. It has to do with a subdued beauty and temperament that
exudes sexiness, without going into the trashy confines of a Pamela
Among her best known films are Raise the Red Lantern (a film by
Zhang Yimou), Farewell My Concubine and Temptress Moon (both by Chen
Kaige). She has become a regular among the international film fest
circuit promoting these films (despite her disdain for the media).
In fact, she has appeared at the Cannes festival for 5 consecutive
years, and has become such a staple of the festival that she has
even been asked to be a judge at Cannes [Side note: It was by Gong
Li at Cannes that Mira Sorvino, a fellow juror, had her Mandarin
praised as excellent], and is regularly sought out by French
Her other accomplishments include being a one-time international
representative of L'Oreal, and winning the Venice Film Festival's
best actress award, and France's Officier des Arts et des Lettres, a
prestigious cultural honor.
To get a true sense of the passively beautiful Gong Li, you should
rent or buy the movie Chinese Box. It will bore you to death, but
you'll observe first-hand the lovely Ms. Li.
Gong Li is well-traveled and her wardrobe illustrates that. Her
style blends Asian and European elements. Her fashion sense is
sharp, and she rarely disappoints red carpet photographers.
That North American audiences get clued in to not only her
incomparable beauty, but the endless talent of one of China's
Shenyang-Born Beauty Gong Li Reteams With
Director Chen Kaige in "The Emperor and the Assassin"
by Lael Loewenstein
Gong Li has been called China's answer to Greta Garbo, and for good
reason. Like the late Swedish actress, she has a sylphlike beauty,
an almost ethereal presence that only deepens with age. She also
shares with Garbo a remarkable acting range that her 21 films to
date suggest she has only begun to explore. Finally, Gong Li is
coolly disdainful of the media and of the intrusions into her
private life that are the wages of fame, although she reluctantly
agrees to the occasional interview and knows the importance of
having a public presence.
Amid the hustle and bustle that again this year surrounded her
appearance at France's Cannes festival, she sat down with BOXOFFICE
to discuss her career and her work in "The Emperor and the
Assassin," opening this December 17 stateside via Sony Pictures
"People keep pushing me to be the center of attention," says Gong in
clipped Mandarin, speaking through an interpreter while spending a
rare quiet moment in a beachfront restaurant along Cannes'
Croisette. "I would prefer to be on the sidelines, because that's
where you see more. When you're in the middle of everything, you
lose perspective. I would actually be content just to hide behind
someone's back and observe."
Nevertheless, Gong Li, who will turn 34 on New Year's Eve, has
become a vital ambassador of Chinese cinema. Recognition has come
partly through films like "Raise the Red Lantern" (a film by Zhang
Yimou), "Farewell My Concubine" and "Temptress Moon" (both by Chen
Kaige) and partly through her regular appearances on the
international film fest circuit.
Gong Li: Model Ambassador Doing the Cannes Cannes
While making her fifth consecutive appearance at Cannes this past
May, Gong had clearly become such a staple of the fest that fans and
paparazzi regularly anticipated her every move, a clear sign of her
substantial overseas (if not American) fame.
When Gong wasn't doing interviews, shopping in the boutiques of
Monaco or posing for pictures--Paris Match devoted an entire photo
spread to her--she was turning up at events for L'Oreal, which in
1997 appointed her one of its international representatives. Despite
her professed shyness, Gong didn't seem to mind the attention.
"I worship this festival," the actress says, stylishly dressed in a
lilac Issey-Miyake type blouse (it's faux, she insists; she bought
it in France) and black slacks. "As an actress, being here with a
film shows that people respect me for my craft. And, as a person, it
is an important opportunity to notice trends and to keep track of
what is happening in cinema."
Getting an early look at such trends in cinema was a perk of serving
on the Cannes jury, which she did in 1997, during the fest's 50th
anniversary. She served alongside jury president Isabelle Adjani,
who is perhaps France's answer to Gong. She also became friendly
with fellow juror Mira Sorvino, whose Mandarin skills Gong praises
More commonly, however, Gong has appeared at Cannes as a
representative of her own films and especially as the former muse
and lover of Zhang Yimou, who discovered her as a 21-year-old
student at the Central Academy of Drama in 1987 and promptly cast
her in "Red Sorghum."
On Zhang, Chen and the Lady Zhao
Gong has collaborated so often with Zhang (their other films
include "To Live," "Ju Dou," "The Story of Qui Ju" and "Shanghai
Triad") that she is inextricably identified with his work. Although
their romantic relationship ended in 1995 (she married a Singapore
businessman in 1997), she says she expects that they will work
Gong has a less complicated history with Beijing-born Chen Kaige,
whose current film, "The Emperor and the Assassin," a vivid and
costly (by one account, as high as $30 million) historical epic
dealing with the violent wars that were the origins of China.
In the film, her third collaboration with Chen Kaige, Gong plays
Lady Zhao, a concubine of the emperor who falls in love with an
assassin plotting to overthrow him. In one remarkable scene, Lady
Zhao makes a tremendous sacrifice by allowing her face to be branded
as an outward display of loyalty to the emperor. It is one of the
few times that this great beauty has been brutally disfigured
onscreen. But it was not, she insists, a difficult scene to
shoot. "That scene was not hard to do because the motivation was all
there," she says matter-of-factly.
"When Lady Zhao made up her mind [to be branded], she had little
inhibition and didn't care about the consequences. To me, she is a
very simple person who would be happy in the kitchen leading a very
simple life. She just wants to be a free person. However, she lives
in the palace and so she becomes involved in all the power games
that go on."
On Hollywood Roles and Roles to Come
Gong Li's roles run the gamut from a callous prostitute to a
courageous peasant, from a compassionate adultress to a tenacious
wife and mother. But, more often than not, she plays women who are
defined and confined by their social or environmental circumstances,
who must transcend their dilemmas or find ways to function within
trying and sometimes even life-threatening situations. The parts are
marked by a tension between the character's strength and
intelligence and her emotional vulnerability.
Gong tirelessly researches her characters: To play a poor woman in
1992's "The Story of Qui Ju," which remains one of her favorite
roles, Gong spent weeks in a small village and learned the local
peasant dialect. Her efforts were successful: She was awarded the
Venice Film Festival's best actress prize. She has been nominated
for many other international awards and has won a trophy-case full
of such prizes. Adding to her roster of awards, last year Gong was
given France's highest cultural honor, the Officier des Arts et des
Yet all the awards have not quelled her desire to expand her craft.
She says she wants to continue to find interesting and diverse
roles, working with directors like Chen and Zhang who allow her the
freedom and leeway to create her characters. She is interested in
producing one day, though not directing--"it takes skills I don't
have," she says modestly--and she plans one day to work in the West
again, though Wayne Wang's "Chinese Box," in which she was paired
with Jeremy Irons, was a less than satisfying experience.
"I love Jeremy Irons and have a great deal of respect for him," she
says, "but I felt that 'Chinese Box' did not capture the Chinese
situation, and it was too much on the surface. So I would not want
to do another film that deals with characters in such a manner,
because it will not work."
So when will Gong Li, China's greatest and most luminous star, work
in the West? "I have been approached many times by many people to
work with actors in the West," she says, obliquely referring to a
long-awaited collaboration with actor Richard Gere. (Their
project "Unlocked Doors" has yet to get off the ground.) "Language
is not a problem. That is not what dictates communication," says
Gong, who understands some English but isn't yet comfortable
speaking it. In the end, she says, sounding more like a hard-nosed
producer than a delicate ingenue, "It depends on the project. What
is always important is coming up with a good script."
Gong Li was born on December 31, 1965 in Shenyang in China. It is
the small last dune family of 5 children. His/her parents are
intellectuals who teach leconomy. The family is rather poor. Child,
Gong Li is a true real tomboy and likes to trail with the large
ones. She is an average pupil, more interested by the song, of which
she dreams to make her trade, and the choral society that by lécole.
Refused in a school of song, it undertakes studies dart dramatic and
between with the dramatic Academy of Peking in 1985. It will arise
from it graduate in 1989.
It is one year before that it takes down its first role with the
cinema. It goes to a hearing and is located by a young realizer
which falls in admiration in front of this strange beauty. This
realizer it is Yang Zimou of which it will become the wife and the
MUSE and with which it will build its career. They then form a
mythical couple with Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles ,
anticonventionnel, fighting against the censure in a puritan
company. They are tracked by the press, but hold good and advance
It likes above all to contemplate it, to admire it and each one of
its films, with splendid esthetics, is the occasion to prolong its
contemplation and to emphasize it. It offers its first role in the
red Sorghum to him (1988) which obtains a bear dor in Berlin, then
continues their duet with Ju Dou in 1989, Epouses and Concubines in
1991, Qiu Ju a Chinese woman into 92, Vivre in 1994 and Shanghai
Triad in 1995.
It also the actress fetish of Chen Kaige with which it turns Adieu
my concubine, Palme dor in Cannes in 1993, and the emperor and the
assassin. It also turned with other Asian realizers of which very
popular Wang Jing realizer of catastrophic and coarse Niki Larson.
Since, Zhang Yimou and Gong Li divorced. It was remariée with a rich
person negotiating in tobacco. It joined Hong Kong where it saw a
gilded and lazy life (it which likes the long nights of sleep and
the late alarm clocks). It turns of publicities for marks of luxury
and is an ambassadress of Loréal. She belongs to jury in various
festivals: Member of the jury in Cannes in 1997 and more recently
president of the festival in Berlin (February 2000). She presents to
it, except of course contest, the last film of Sun Zhou , Breaking
the silence, where she interprets the mother dun young child deaf.
Parrallélement with its career, it is invested in various combat to
fight against unhappy childhood or for the protection of
lenvironnement. It was named Ambassadrice of UNESCO. It sinvestit
also in the political life of its country and was named appointed of
the people, was charged, in an advisory capacity to deliver its
opinion on various subjects.
by Severine (3/07/2000)
Born in Shenyang, China, in 1965, GONG Li has so far appeared in
every film directed by ZHANG Yimou. For seven years she was his
regular leading actress and constant companion. Since the completion
of SHANGHAI TRIAD, their personal relationship has come to an end.
Each has benefited enormously from the association in the past, in
professional as well as personal terms.
GONG Li grew up in Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province, and
showed an early aptitude for acting. She enrolled in the Central
Academy of Drama to study acting in 1985, graduating four years
later. Despite her subsequent success as a film star, she remains on
the staff to this day.
She was still a student there when ZHANG Yimou discovered her in
1987, choosing her for the lead role in his first film as a
director, RED SORGHUM, which went on to win the top prize at the
Berlin Film Festival. Since then she has been in six more films for
ZHANG Yimou, including SHANGHAI TRIAD and eight for other directors,
not counting the still-to-be released TEMPTRESS MOON, the latest
film by Chen Kaige.
Of the films she has made for ZHANG Yimou, she has starred in all
but one. The exception was his second feature, OPERATION COUGAR, the
story of an airline hijack, in which she played only a supporting
role as an air hostess. Her most powerful performances were as a
wronged wife in the two historical productions, JU DOU and RAISE THE
RED LANTERN. In the first of these, in which she plays an
adulteress, she was able to express physical passion in a way that
had not been possible in RED SORGHUM, where her fresh and winning
personality had nevertheless reflected some of the androgynous charm
of an Asian Audrey Hepburn.
Her greatest personal triumph, however, was in none of these films.
In his fifth film, ZHANG Yimou cast her completely against type as a
heavily pregnant peasant woman in THE STORY OF QIU JU. For this role
she carried out extensive research deep in rural China, altering her
natural voice to capture peasant tones and skillfully imitating the
way Chinese country women waddle rather than walk. The scale of her
achievement was not lost outside China. When the film was shown at
the Venice Film Festival in 1992, it was not only ZHANG Yimou who
was lionized. GONG Li also came away with the award for Best
Actress. For ZHANG Yimou she has since appeared in TO LIVE, which
was honored at last year's Cannes Film Festival, and SHANGHAI TRIAD.
Though much of her best work has been done for ZHANG Yimou. GONG Li
has also been a prolific actress in quite different films, made
either in Hong Kong or as Chinese co-productions. The best known is
FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE, which shared the Palme d'Or as Best Film at
the 1993 Cannes Film Festival, and which won GONG Li an award as
Best Supporting Actress from the New York Film Critics Circle. This
was the most lauded film of CHEN Kaige, ZHANG Yimou's contemporary
at the Beijing Film Academy in the late Seventies. When CHEN Kaige's
most recent film (originally known as SHADOW OF A FLOWER, but now
renamed TEMPTRESS MOON) ran into difficulties with its leading
actress, Chen Kaige took the unusual step of suspending production,
scrapping much of what had already been shot, and resuming principal
photography with GONG Li recast in the role.
GONG Li's other films made independently of ZHANG Yimou have mostly
been in the field of historical and martial arts drama. THE EMPRESS
DOWAGER (in which she did not play the title role) and A TERRA COTTA
WARRIOR are both costume dramas directed by the veteran LI Hanhsiang
and CHING Siutung.
In the latter, which has a contemporary parallel story, ZHANG Yimou
appears as an actor. CHING Siutung has admitted that the film was
conceived from the beginning as a vehicle for these two famous
lovers. THE FLIRTING SCHOLAR is another historical picture, this
time a comedy with the popular Hong Kong actor Stephen Chow, while
in THE GREAT CONQUEROR'S CONCUBINE, GONG Li eagerly seized the
chance to play a villain. DEMI-GODS AND SEMI-DEVILS, made last year,
is a more conventional Hong Kong action picture, with elaborate
special effects and elements of supernatural.
GONG Li has twice appeared in films directed by women: a
contemporary drama by Taiwanese actress Sylvia Chang, MARY FROM
BEIJING, and THE PAINTER, directed by Huang Shuqin, in which she
portrays the woman painter PAO Yuliang who won notoriety for her
portraits of nudes.
RED SORGHUM ( 1988)
THE EMPRESS DOWAGER ( 1989)
OPERATION COUGAR (1989)
A TERRA-COTTA WARRIOR (1989)
JU DOU (1990)
RAISE THE RED LANTERN (1991)
BACK TO SHANGHAI (1991)
MARY FROM BEIJING (1992)
THE STORY OF QIU JU (1992)
FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE (1993)
THE PAINTER (1993)
THE FLIRTING SCHOLAR (1993)
TO LIVE (1994)
THE GREAT CONQUEROR'S CONCUBINE (1994)
DEMI-GODS AND SEMI-DEVILS (1993)
SHANGHAI TRIAD (1995)
TEMPTRESS MOON (1995)
As the radiantly beautiful star of Zhang Yimou's finest films, Gong
Li became the darling of the international art house circuit and
China's most famous actress. Whether playing a pregnant villager
searching for justice or a rich man's concubine struggling to
survive, she lends her characters a grace and sensuality that keeps
international audiences transfixed.
Born in 1965 in northeastern Shenyang, Gong was the youngest
daughter of an economics professor. She knew from a young age that
she wanted to be an actress, and at school she excelled at singing
and dancing almost to the exclusion of other subjects. In spite of
failing her college exam twice, she was eventually accepted to the
Beijing Central College of Drama in 1985. At that time, Chinese
cinema was experiencing a renaissance after the tumult of Mao
Zedong's Cultural Revolution. Chen Kaige's Yellow Earth (1984) had
just taken the Hong Kong International Film Festival by storm,
heralding the rise of the Fifth Generation of filmmakers. One of
these young directors was Zhang, the cinematographer for Yellow
Earth, who cast Gong in his debut project, Red Sorghum (1987).
Immediately a critical and commercial success both abroad and at
home, the film garnered the Golden Bear award at the 1987 Berlin
Film Festival and thrust both director and star into the
Their professional and well-publicized personal relationship would
go on to shape Chinese cinema for the next decade. Yimou's films
made Li an international household name, while Li's undeniable
presence pulled in audiences. After appearing in the forgettable
Codename Cougar (1987) and starring opposite her beau in The
Terracotta Warrior (1989), Li grabbed the attention of international
audiences again with the Academy Award-nominated Ju Dou (1990). Her
performance as the beleaguered bride of a bitter, impotent old man
glistened with barely repressed sexuality, and fierce, gleeful
vengeance. In her next film, Raise the Red Lantern (1992), widely
considered Yimou's masterpiece, Li again brilliantly played a woman
whose independence and sensuality are oppressed by a rigidly
patriarchal culture. Yet Li's performance in The Story of Qiu Ju
(1992) is perhaps her most memorable. Instead of playing the object
of obsession, she portrayed an unflagging agent of justice in the
guise of a dumpy, pregnant peasant woman. The change in characters
paid off, as she won a Best Actress award at the 1992 Venice
International Film Festival.
After playing the lead in Sylvia Chang's well-received Mary from
Beijing (1992), Li played a prostitute turned opera star's wife
turned enemy of the people in Kaige's stunning, Farewell, My
Concubine (1993), which won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film
Festival. For the first time, Li received international acclaim in a
film not directed by Yimou. Though she would star in two more of
Yimou's films, To Live (1994) and Shanghai Triad (1995), her career
started to take her in a different direction. After the latter was
released, the press reported that Li and Yimou had officially ended
both their personal and professional relationships. That same year,
she married Singapore tobacco tycoon Ooi Hoe Soeng. Since then, she
has appeared in two more Kaige films, Temptress Moon (1996) and The
Emperor and the Assassin (1999). In 1997, she appeared in her first
English language role opposite Jeremy Irons in Chinese Box (1997). ~
Jonathan Crow, All Movie Guide
Who is Gong Li?
Gong Li was the fifth child in her family. Her mother was past 40
when she was born. Her brothers and sister were much older than she,
and often took her mother's attention away. Gong Li learned to
entertain herself early in life. But she was often lonely.
She was a sickly child and often cried, so her mother would soothe
her with lullabies. When she was a year old, she could already sing
along with her mother. In fact, she was much better at singing and
dancing in school than at all the other studies, because that's what
she loved most.
Her singlemindedness nearly ruined her career before it even got
started. She failed the entrance examination to the Beijing Central
College of Drama three times because she wasn't strong in non-
dramatic subjects. Perhaps she'd worked herself out, because she was
known in school as a quiet, retiring girl -- nothing like the
international star of today. At the same time, her singlemindedness
now stands her in good stead... she prepares for each new role with
a concentration that borders on the fanatic.
"My family never wanted me to become an actress," she
explained. "They didn't see acting as real work. My father is a
professor of economics at Shandung University. My mother and my
three older brothers are all teachers. And my older sister is a
doctor. That's the kind of family I grew up in. Studies were the
Gong Li studied well, earning high marks at college, and also
earning herself a leading role as the new star of Zhang Yi-Mou's
film, "Red Sorghum." From there, her career has zoomed.
"I was born to be an actress," she states. "Somehow