Zhang Ziyi (House of Flying Daggers) 02/08/2009Posted by chillinaris in Beautiful, Movies, People, Pictures, Uncategorized.
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Who is Zhang Ziyi?
Zhang Ziyi (also known as Ziyi Zhang) is China’s most famous and talented actress, you have seen her in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Rush Hour 2, Hero, and Memoirs of a Geisha. She has dazzled audiences with her powerful acting, martial arts grace, and stunning beauty. Her most recent action film to be released in the US was House of Flying Daggers. But Zhang Ziyi is not just an action star, she has won praise for her performance in the romantic drama 2046, and she won China’s most prestigious acting award for her role in Jasmine Women. In 2005 Ziyi made Memoirs of a Geisha, her first major Hollywood role. Her latest released film is The Banquet, a Chinese historical drama. Upcoming are The Horsemen and Mei Lanfang. For information on all her movies, check out the filmography.
In addition to being an actress, she is a natural model and is basically the most beautiful woman on earth, so be sure to see the pictures.
We have a large collection of video clips, head over there for highlights from her movies, commercials, and TV appearances. Make sure you see her awesome Matrix-insired Visa commercial “Dining Out” if you haven’t already.
About her name
You might wonder why she is called both Ziyi Zhang and Zhang Ziyi in the press. Chinese names differ from Western names in that the family name (Zhang) comes first before the personal name (Ziyi), hence in China she is named Zhang Ziyi. That is how she has been known for most of her career. But when a Chinese comes to the west, they usually reverse their names to match the western convention, in which case her name becomes Ziyi Zhang. She has asked the Western media to refer to her as Ziyi Zhang from now on, but half the time she is still called Zhang Ziyi. Her friends just call her Z.
Zhang Ziyi was born the 9th of February 1979, in Beijing, China. Her father worked as an economist and her mother was a kindergarden teacher. After some friends were expressed concerned she that was too frail, her parents encouraged her to take up dance and gymnastics to build up her strength.
So before Zhang Ziyi became an actress, she spent years training in traditional Chinese folk dance, first in elementary school at the Xuanwu District Children’s Palace, and later at the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy. Ziyi eventually won the Performance Prize at the 1994 Taoli Cup National Youth Dance Competition.
In each video below, the dance she performs is representative of the traditional style of one of China’s ethnic minorities. I believe the first two videos are from early rounds of the 1994 Taoli Cup competition or possibly 1993, although I am not certain of it. The Peacock dance video is from the finals of the 1994 competition.
Even though a career in dance seemed promising for Ziyi, she became frustrated with the art by the time she was 15, and opted to persue acting instead.
She therefore enrolled in the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing, where she received her dramatic training. It was at this time that she made her first movie, Touching Starlight. She also made two commercials, for China Mobile and Beijing Liquor, and appeared in a music video by Xie Xaodong. (You can find these at the bottom of the videos page.) Soon after, Ziyi got her big break. She auditioned for a shampoo commercial, directed by Zhang Yimou (one of China’s most renowned directors). The director of many successful films, he used the commercial as a way to audition actresses for his upcoming film.
For her first major film, The Road Home, director Zhang selected Ziyi from thousands of applicants to play Zhao Di, a young girl who falls in love with the new teacher who has come to her town in rural China. The Road Home won the Jury Grand Prix Silver Bear at the 2000 Berlin Film Festival. ZZ won the prestigious Hundred Flowers award for her performance.
Ziyi was cast in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon after being recommended to director Ang Lee by Zhang Yimou. Lee had originally planned to cast Hong Kong starlet Shu Qi for the role, but after she decided the role would require too much training, she was replaced with Ziyi, who was used to intensive training schedules from her school years as a dancer. According to director Ang Lee, Ziyi had to study “Not only martial arts, but disposition, classic movement, calligraphy, etiquette, voice. Diving-she never dived before.” All this training paid off in one of the most exciting performances in film history.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon became one of the biggest hits of 2000 and the most popular foreign-language film in US history, and went on to earn a roaring $130 million at the box office and 4 Academy Awards, among the long list of awards it won. Ziyi’s role garnered her awards from critics groups in Chicago, Hong Kong, and Toronto; two Golden Globe nominations, the MTV Movie Award for Best Fight Scene in 2001, and many other honors from around the world. She was also one of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People in the World.
As a result of Couching Tiger, Ziyi instantly became internationally famous and the hottest young actress in China’s film industry. She was widely sought after for celebrity endorsements, of which she choose very carefully brands that would enhance her image, and managed to command the highest fees of any celebrity in China. She also received official recognition by being the youngest person named to the China Film Board, and by being named a Friendship Ambassador to Tibet by the Tibetan Development Fund.
In the summer 2001, Ziyi enhanced her international profile by playing a villain in Jackie Chan’s smash hit Rush Hour 2. This Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker cop comedy is actually the highest grossing film Ziyi has appeared in. She plays the role of Hu Li, an assassin whose weapon of choice is the biggest bomb she can carry. Highlights of her role include looking good, acting crazy, and kicking Chris Tucker’s ass. She’s great at all three, while Chan and Tucker add the laughs.
She was next seen in a Korean film entitled Musa, in which she portrayed a Ming princess taken hostage by Mongolian raiders. Korea’s response to Gladiator, this was the biggest and most expensive film project in Korean history. Gritty and realistic violence dominates the style of Musa. After this she returned to work with Zhang Yimou to make Hero, another martial arts masterpiece.
Her first mature dramatic role was in Purple Butterfly. In 1930s Shanghai, a vulnerable young woman named Xin Xia (Cynthia) joins the resistance and is tasked with seducing her former Japanese lover, who now works for Japanese intelligence. The slow, dark, intense film was rejected by many critics because of its visual style and its dense, subtle plotting, which when understood creates a disturbingly compelling historical atmosphere. The acting was widely praised as the movie’s greatest strength, Ziyi in particular being singled out, as in this New York Times review: “Ms. Zhang Ziyi, having proved herself as a glorious action heroine, most recently in Zhang Yimou’s “Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers,” now steps gracefully into a new genre, evoking the hard, enigmatic elegance of a 1940’s screen heroine.”
She next worked on 2046. A blend of classic romance and science fiction from Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai. In it, a writer with painful memories of love tries to escape from them both in life and in writing. A series of love stories alternating between this world and his fictional world of 2046 explore the depths of human passion and heartbreak. Zhang Ziyi plays Bai Ling, a woman who moves in next door and soon becomes his lover. Her most ravishing and mature role yet, a huge step past Purple Butterfly in her growth as an actress. Still her most highly praised performance, it won her many awards and lavish critical praise.
After working with the famous Wong Kar Wai, Ziyi choose to work with a promising young director, Huo Yong, in Jasmine Women. A story of love and loss in three generations of a single family in Shanghai. Zhang Ziyi plays mother, daughter, and granddaughter as the film moves from the 1930’s to the 1950’s to the 1970’s. Ziyi was awarded China’s most presitigious Best Actress award for her performance. Due to unusual conflicts between the producers, Jasmine Women went several years before receiving a proper theatrical release in China in 2006.
She rejoined great director Zhang Yimou of Hero and The Road Home to take the next step in wuxia martial arts films, House of Flying Daggers. This was Zhang Ziyi’s biggest action role since Crouching Tiger. It tells a much more emotional story than Hero, culminating in a spectacular if melodramatic ending. Ziyi again received exuberant critical recognition around the world, including a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress, one of the few times such a honor has been bestowed for an “action role.”
In early 2004 Ziyi worked on her first Japanese film Princess Raccoon, directed by the grand old man of Japanese cinema, Seijun Suzuki. Ziyi plays a raccoon spirit princess in this musical love-story. Her character, Tanuki-hime, falls in love with a human prince who has been banished from his father’s castle. For her role in the film, Zhang Ziyi took a two week dancing and singing lesson in Japan. One of the few for roles for which Ziyi did not win an award, as tap-dancing raccoons get no respect but only sweet smiles.
In late 2004 and though much of 2005, Ziyi worked on Memoirs of a Geisha, her first major Hollywood role, in which she starred with Ken Watanabe, Michelle Yeoh, and Gong Li. Adapted from the bestselling novel, the movie tells the story of a young girl who is sold into a Kyoto geisha house. While Memoirs as a film was not a critical success, Ziyi’s expressive performance won her numerous Best Actress nominations, from the Golden Globes, BAFTA, and Screen Actors Guild Awards, and others.
2005 was a huge year for Ziyi in America, as her profile rose continuosly throughout the year. Time magazine named her one the 100 Most Influential people in the world, and she appeared on the covers of Newsweek, Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, and many others. The release of 2046 led to an avalanche of praise within critical circles, and as the year ended Ziyi’s face was immortalized by the publicity campaign for Memoirs of a Geisha. Meanwhile, in Japan Ziyi was featured in over 20 magazines and was the focus of a photo exhibit in Tokyo.
In late 2005 Ziyi began work on The Banquet, an historical drama of revenge set in Tang dynasty China, loosely based upon Hamlet. It is directed by Feng Xiaogang, and was released in the fall of 2006.
Zhang Ziyi got her start by doing commercials when she was a teenager, including an audition for a shampoo commercial where she met great director Zhang Yimou which led to her first major film role in The Road Home. After the breakthrough success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Zhang Ziyi quickly became China’s most sought after celebrity and has done work for many of the world’s most famous brand names.
- Platinum Guild International
- Garnier – A sister brand of Maybelline, both are owned by L’Oreal.
- Asience – Japanese shampoo brand, by now her most emblematic promotional campaign, she has done more than a dozen commercials for Asience
- Maybelline – Ziyi was their first Asian spokewoman, her commercials have been aired in the China, Japan and the US.
- Visa – Convenient in case you destroy a restaurant that doesn’t take American Express.
- 2% Water – Korean bottled water, one of ehr first commercial campaigns: “Love is always thirsty.”
- Coca Cola
- LVMH Group – A world leader in luxury brands, including:
Tag Heuer – Swiss luxury watches, her main work for LVMH has been for Tag Heuer brand.
Christian Dior – Dior named Ziyi their Ambassador to Asia for 2005
- Ferragamo – Italian luxury apparel, they supply much her wardrobe.
- Louis Vuitton – French luxury apparel, she has attended their events.
- Soutec – Chinese cell phone maufacturer.
- Legend – China’s largest computer manufacturer, now named Lenovo.
- Cotton Harbor Towers – Upscale Japanese residential estate.
- Got Milk? – Milk is good for you.
- SARS Public Service – SARS is not good for you.
- Jaijue Motorcycles –
- Beijing Liquor – Youthful work in 1996.
Zhang Ziyi Movies
The greatest pleasure of being a Zhang Ziyi fan is appreciating the incredible movies she has appeared in. Blessed from her earliest days to work with China’s greatest directors, such as Zhang Yimou, Ang Lee, and Wong Kar Wai; these men helped shape her enormous talent, and she responded with some of the most exciting and powerful performances an actress has ever given. A true artist, Ziyi has carefully chosen her major roles and has been in a series of films that are enjoyable not only for her exceptional talents and beauty, but as excellent movies in every regard.
Mei Lanfang, began in Beijing on July 14. It is a $15 million project under famed Chinese director Chen Kaige (“Farewell My Concubine” and “The Emperor and the Assassin”.) It will chronicle the life of the famous star of Peking opera Mei Lanfang. Expected to be released before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, some hope the film will provide a glimpse into traditional Chinese culture at a time when the world’s attention will be focused on China.
“The Horsemen” tells the story of hardened detective who finds himself thrust into an investigation of perverse serial killings rooted in the Biblical prophecy of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Set in Detroit but filmed in Winnipeg, the $20 million production spent eight weeks in filming, from January to March, 2007. According to Ziyi “her character is a very complicated teegage girl, who forms a small gang with four boys to avenge those who have been victimized by injustice.” no image available
Released Fall 2006
An historical drama of revenge set in Tang dynasty China, loosely based upon Hamlet. A new Emperor has usurped the throne through murder. Zhang Ziyi plays the widowed Empress, who marries the new Emperor to protect herself, but also secretly plots his death with the help of the Crown Prince and the Chief Minister. Yet the Prince and Minister each have their own plans for the throne, and, of course, so does the Emperor. All these intrigues are brought to a climax when the Emperor calls for a lavish banquet, where the murderous plans are set in motion. The Banquet explores a tragedy of fate through fighting, dancing, and storytelling.
Memoirs of a Geisha
Now on DVD
Zhang Ziyi plays the title role of Sayuri, a young girl who is taken from her village sold into a geisha house. Sayuri survives abuse at the hands of a jealous rival, masters the arts of the geisha, and finally wins the affection of the man she loves. Ziyi stars with Ken Watanabe, Gong Li, and Michelle Yeoh in the long awaited adaptaion of Arthur Golden’s bestselling novel. Her first english language role, for which she recieved Best Actress nominations from the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild.
Zhang Ziyi plays a raccoon spirit princess in this musical love-story by Japanese director Seijun Suzuki. Her character, Tanuki-hime, falls in love with Amechiyo (Joe Odagiri), a prince who has been banished from his father’s castle. The sets of the film will resemble those of a play on stage. Director Suzuki says: “Imagine blending elements of architecture, art and traditional performing arts like Kabuki and Noh… with opera, ballet, and rock’n’roll! Princess Raccoon tells a compelling story about the triumphant nature of self-determination, beauty, and love.”
A story of love and loss over three generations of life in a single family in Shanghai. Jasmine Women tells of the family’s struggle to overcome its tragic history, as each daughter repeats the mistakes of her mother. Zhang Ziyi plays mother, daughter, and granddaughter as the film moves from the 1930’s to the 1950’s to the 1970’s. Jasmine Women was first shown at the Shanghai Film Fesival in 2004 where it won the Jury Prix Prize. It’s wide release in China has been repeatedly delayed, but should be forthcoming in April 2006.
House of Flying Daggers
This is Zhang Ziyi’s biggest action role since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. She rejoins great director Zhang Yimou of Hero and The Road Home to take the next step in wuxia martial arts films. A much more emotional story than Hero, culminating in a spectacular if melodramatic ending. The action sequences easily surpass those in Hero, and the cinematography is almost as beautiful.
A blend of classic romance and science fiction from Wong Kar Wai. A writer with painful memories of love tries to escape from them both in life and in writing. A series of love stories alternating between this world and his fictional world of 2046 explore the depths of human passion and heartbreak. Zhang Ziyi plays Bai Ling, a woman who moves in next door to him and soon becomes his lover. Her most ravishing and mature role yet, a huge step past even Purple Butterfly in her growth as an actress. Gorgeous cinematography and music frame the powerful performances of actresses Zhang Ziyi, Faye Wong, and Gong Li.
The tragedy of war takes many shapes, and few movies have ever looked at it as Purple Butterfly does. In 1930s Shanghai, a vulnerable young woman joins the resistance and is tasked with seducing her former Japanese lover, who now works for Japanese intelligence. This slow, dark, intense film was rejected by many critics because of its visual style and its dense, subtle plotting, which when understood creates a disturbingly compelling historical atmosphere. Zhang Ziyi’s most underappreciated movie, and one of her greatest dramatic performances to date.
A masterpiece on every level, Hero brings together China’s biggest stars under the helm of it’s best director, Zhang Yimou (The Road Home.) Jet Li stars as Nameless, and he comes to the King’s palace with the story of how he defeated the kingdom’s three most feared assassins. The most beautiful cinematography imaginable, evocative music by Tan Dun (Crouching Tiger), superb acting by Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, Daoming Chen, and Zhang Ziyi, excellently choreographed action sequences, and a sophisticated plot make this one the greatest movies ever.
Korea’s response to Gladiator, this was the biggest and most expensive project in Korean film history. Gritty and realistic violence dominates the style of Musa. In 1375 a diplomatic envoy from Korea is sent to China, where they are banished into the Gobi desert. They must rescue a kidnapped Chinese princess from Mongolian raiders and march hundred of miles to their home, before the Mongol army can capture them. Ziyi plays the princess Bu-yong.
Legend of Zu
A forgettable action fantasy from Hong Kong director Tsui Hark. It suffers from excessive use of special effects and a pointlessly complicated plot. Ziyi has only 10 minutes of screen time, and her talents aren’t used well.
Rush Hour 2
This Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker cop comedy is actually the highest grossing film Ziyi has appeared in. She plays the role of Hu Li, an assassin whose weapon of choice is the biggest bomb she can carry. Highlights of her role include looking good, acting crazy, and kicking Chris Tucker’s ass. She’s great at all three, while Chan and Tucker add the laughs.
The Road Home
For her first major film, Zhang Ziyi was selected from thousands of applicants to play Zhao Di, a young girl who falls in love with the new teacher who has come to her town in rural China. Director Zhang Yimou uses only the barest means to create a work of perfect poetic beauty.
This is Zhang Ziyi’s very first movie, made when she was only 15. Ziyi stars in the role of Chen Wei, a young dancer who is diagnosed with cancer and forced to have her leg amputated. Unable to continue her training, she starts a radio show where the disabled can share their feelings with one another. Based on a real life story. An English subtitled version of this movie was produced by forum member Mocha, and my host ZiyiFilms.com is the only place you will find it.
My Wife is A Gangster 2
Ziyi had a short 30 second cameo in this popular Korean action comedy. It’s not unlike her role in Rush Hour 2, but she with less screen time and a gaudier outfit.
2001 – Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
2005 – Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for House of Flying Daggers
2006 – Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for Memoirs of a Geisha
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards
2001 – Best Supporting Actress for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
2006 – Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama for Memoirs of a Geisha
Golden Horse Film Festival
2000 – Best Actress for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
2004 – Best Actress for 2046
Hong Kong Film Awards
2001 – Best Actress for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
2003 – Best Supporting Actress for Hero
2006 – Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture for Memoirs of a Geisha
Kids’ Choice Awards
2002 – Favorite Female Action Hero for Rush Hour 2
MTV Movie Awards
2001 – Breakthrough Female Performance for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
2002 – Best Villain for Rush Hour 2
2005 – Best Fight for House of Flying Daggers (For Zhang Ziyi vs. The Emperor’s guards)
2006 – Sexiest Performance for Memoirs of a Geisha
Online Film Critics Society Awards
2001 – Best Supporting Actress for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
2005 – Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama for Memoirs of a Geisha
Screen Actors Guild Awards
2006 – Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role for Memoirs of a Geisha
Teen Choice Awards
2001 – Film – Choice Breakout Performance
Hundred Flowers Awards
2000 – Best Actress for The Road Home
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards
2001 – Most Promising Actress
Golden Bauhinia Awards
2001 – Best Supporting Actress for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Golden Rooster Awards
2004 – Best Actress for Mo li hua kai (Jasmine Women)
Hong Kong Film Awards
2005 – Best Actress for 2046
Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards
2005 – Best Actress for 2046
Independent Spirit Awards
2001 – Best Supporting Female for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
MTV Movie Awards
2001 – Best Fight for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Versus entire bar)
Toronto Film Critics Association Awards
2000 – Best Supporting Performance, Female for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Young Artist Awards
2001 – Best Young Actress in an International Film for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Ranked 2nd of the 100 Sexiest Women by FHM Taiwan (2001).
Named one of the 25 Hottest Stars Under 25 by Teen People Magazine (2001).
Named one of the 25 Hottest Stars Under 25 by Teen People Magazine (2002).
Ranked #91 in Stuff magazine’s “102 Sexiest Women In The World” (2002)
Voted in at #100 in FHM’s Sexiest 100 Girls of 2002, UK edition. [June 2002]
Forbes magazine’s China edition recently ranked her the second most popular celebrity after NBA player ‘Yao Ming’ . [August 2004]
Named by Entertainment Weekly in their ‘The Must List’ 2005. Listed 38th out of the 122 people and things the magazine “loves” this year, Ziyi was the only Chinese to be included.
Selected by Southern People Weekly magazine as ‘Chinese Top Ten Leaders Of The Younger Generation’ in 2005.
Listed in People’s ’50 Most Beautiful People’ List in 2005.
Listed in TIME’s World’s 100 Most Influential People. They called her “China’s Gift to Hollywood”.
Ranked one of the ‘100 Most Beautiful Women in the World’ in the July 2005 issue of Harpers & Queen magazine. It was her first time on the list. She was ranked number 15.
Included in People’s 100 Most Beautiful People in the World the second year in a row in 2006. This is now her third appearance on the list.
Voted in at #86 in FHM’s sexiest women in the world in 2006. She had not appeared in the list since 2002.
Topped Japanese Playboy’s “100 Sexiest Women in Asia” list and was featured on the cover. (April 2006)
Voted #1 in E!’s Sexiest Action Stars list in summer 2007.
Ranked #3 in Japanese magazine CLASSY’s ‘Super Perfect Head-to-Body Size Ratio List’ in January 2009.