Experience Makes Me Mature
“I have to admit that I’ve been very lucky, if I hadn’t meet directors Zhang Yimou or Ang Lee, I might not have achieved what I’ve achieved today…”
I gain maturity from dealing with fame and rumours
“Winning awards”? Of course it affects me. It gratifies me by showing recognition from the public for my works, and it also helps to build up my self-confidence. I think that everyone who works in show business, both directors and actors, none of them really refuses this kind of honour. Maybe some people act if they disdain it, but in fact, from the bottom of our hearts, we all know how much it really means to us.
Anyhow, I really care about it. Awards, they have their greatest value when they are first awarded into the winners’ hands, then they become worthless when cherished by their owners at home, they only become parts of your memories. And the same thing happens to the next trophy.
I of course know that I can’t indulge myself in the joy of winning those awards forever. I can’t always attend all the movie festivals, media promotions, without losing myself in my own fame which comes along with my meteoric success. I have to settle down for learning. It’s very fortunate for me to work with those renowned directors in “The Road Home” and “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.” That doesn’t mean how transcendent and eminent Zhang Ziyi’s acting skill is, because I don’t know what will I be without them, will I still be so successful? If you really have enthusiasms for your vocations, if you really care, you will want to be the best one out there, no one wants to be the worst. I still have a long career ahead of me, I will devote myself to my next and future roles…
Rumours? They also affects me, not necessary negatively. I now contemplate more since they started appearing, these kinds of news elicited my vigilance and also alarmed me promptly. Since then I knew better where my shortcomings are. I felt frustrated but became more mature at the same time. From what I have gained and what I have lost, I must admit I’ve just been too lucky, I’ve had more opportunities than others. Maybe because of my sudden stardom while I am still so young, a lot of people don’t really recognize me, I can understand that. If I am in their shoes, I will be feeling just the same as them. A young girl without too many credits to go with her name, why on earth does she becomes such a glaring star? I can only try my best to respond to these allegations with my hard work. Still, I cherish my past experiences, but more thankful to the people who discover me, help me, cherish me and support me.
We had a nickname for Miss Chang, “Mother Chang”, because she always devoted herself to her students
I lived in a dancing school from when I was eleven years old, and I am not good at human relationships since my childhood. I have a kinda extreme personality, not very talkative but always tell my real thoughts to others, sometimes I would antagonize people because of that, because I don’t want to tell lies hypocritically. My relationship with my classmates was, well, a convergence of good and bad. But sometimes real thoughts will do all of us good. The light would be turned off strictly at 10 0’clock at our dormitory, we had to light up candles if we wanted to read. No one has complained about this to our teachers, but then I stood out: “Can the lights out time of our dormitory be made later?”
When I was attending the tutoring classes prior to my exam, I always hid in a quiet corner, but Miss Chang Li often asked me questions. I was asked to act as if I was hunting wolves in forest one time. I couldn’t do anything but perform a graceful dancing maneuver. Miss Chang told me subsequently that the best performance always come along with the most sincerely, from-the-bottom-of-heart emotions. I didn’t know a single thing about acting at that time, but Miss Chang was interested in me, and encouraged me as well. She asked me id I had any other colleges on my preference list? Have I ever won awards from education department or something like that. Then I learned later that because Miss Chang wanted to secure my seat in the Central Drama Academy, she went to my original dancing school by bus for my award winning school records. Prior to this, both me and my family hadn’t any kinds of contacts or relationships with her, I was really, really moved.
After one year of study at the Central Drama Academy, I still didn’t know much about acting, I was so confused. I was terrified to act in front of the audiences, especially alone. I was afraid of the stage. So, I told my mum I wanted to leave the school, but had no courage to raise the issue in front of Miss Chang. My mum persuaded me to hang on for a few days longer since she thought I might needed some more time to getting used to my new school. During that time I often thought about being sick, since then I wouldn’t have to go up to the stage again. I cried whenever I saw the front gate of the Central Drama Academy because I didn’t want to step inside it. But Miss Chang helped me to build up my self-esteem, she had the convictions that I would one day learn the skill of acting. And finally, after my sophomoric year, I gradually immersed myself in acting. Though I was not very intimate with my teacher during my school years, but I still really adore teachers like Miss Chang who takes care her students as her own children. But I was more close with her for these two years, I pay a visit to her everytime I come back to Beijing.
Zhang Yimou: a man who exudes with intelligence and aptitude
I am still very thankful to my guide director Zhang Yimou, I’ve learned so much during my cooperation with him. He is a very intelligent, sedate, unadorned director who really cares a lot about his works. He’s really a down-to-the-earth person, you can never feel as if you are working with such a prominent artist. He really knows how to protect and takes good care of actors, he never let his actors waste their staminas at the scenes, basically he films only when his actors are at their best phases. ZY often indulges in his own visions by ignoring the substantial realm, and frequently his own health. There was one time he had to endure such a terrible stomachache, he had to stick a hard object to his body with a hot water bag as layer, and was dripping with sweat at the scene. He was eventually curl up on the chair. All the staff had to persuade him to stop filming, and then he only took some medicines from his home and returned promptly without delaying the shooting of the movie.
But ZY could be quite terrible sometimes. He easily lost his temper if his actors were not in good form. There was one time, it was winter and really really cold. I was in a relatively depressed mood that today, and we were supposed to be shooting a happy scene. I simply couldn’t adjust myself to it. Finally, director has had enough of me. He brought me to he entrance of the village, then, vent all of his rages to me: “You can’t be like this! We all woke up so early this morning because of this scene, we were prepared and waiting for you, look at what you have done… Think about it yourself.” ZY didn’t blame me in front of others, he really cherishes his actors. He left without any coaxing after he finished scolding, and I went back to the scene after I finished crying. Director asked me: “Are you ready now?” “Hmm, yes!” In fact, not really, but I still managed to finish that scene at last.
ZY really has great enthusiasm to his projects. Both me and Zheng Hao (male protagonist in The Road Home) went to the hinterland where the movie was taken place one month prior to the actual shooting of TRH. We cooked for the peasants, feed the pigs and collected potatoes from fields. We didn’t understand why, but these jobs are very funny at the same time really tiring. At the end of each day, staff would come to pick us up, just like what I saw in a movie. It was very funny.
Until now I still trust director Zhang Yimou very much. I will ask about his opinions whenever after I read a script. He is a very confident but not arrogant, not evasive but honest person. He will tries his best to help you if you face any difficulties. He has devoted his entire life to his movies, at the same time lives a very simple life which does not match up with his fame.
Ang Lee’s pursuit of perfection, my martial arts choreographer, and my stunt double
Working with director Ang Lee was totally different from my previous experience with ZY. Maybe because Zhang Yimou has a better mutual understanding with his actors, we were like a big family. In contrast, I felt a bit detached from Ang Lee. But all of them have really taken a good care of me. I often associate my cooperation with them as a car crash. Maybe I would miss this opportunity if I only left a second earlier or later. Because of this perfect timing, it has rendered my success today. I really should pay my debts of gratitude to these outstanding directors, not by buying a car to Zhang Yimou, giving a villa to Ang Lee or anything like these. After my success, I should support their movies in every conceivable way. In the latest project of ZY’s, “Hero”, I will be playing a supporting role, but I still will try my best, listen to the crew all the way.
Crouching Tiger was a very difficult experience for me. It was filmed in a very tough fashion. From the shooting scene, human relationships, to the working practice of director, they were all different from before. Especially working with Ang Lee, Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh, they are all great artists. I was exerted with enormous pressures. After a while of shooting, it was rumoured that Ang Lee was unsatisfied with my performance. Well, as you know, I am a straightforward person. It was painful for me to handle such a great pressure. I’ve been pondered about it for three days then I decided to settle this matter with Ang Lee directly. I first told Ang Lee’s assistant about this. When we were on our way to the scenes, I have finally blurted: “Director..” then I burst into tears and alleviated all of my depression at once: “I heard that you were unsatisfied with me, why didn’t you tell me anything about it? Then I can never improve myself…..” A real relief, then that Ang Lee responded: “I’ve never said anything like that!”
Ang Lee has never shouted, never lost his temper, talks in a very slow pace, a real graceful and humble man. But I was so afraid of him. I dared not to stare into his eyes the first time I finished my fight scene, because I was so afraid if I see any disappointments from his glances. We were shooting a few scenes during winter, it was so cold. I had to put on two more clothes under my costume. Ang Lee said:”Ziyi, why are you wrapped up like this? Take them off!” I first thought I would have no chance to put on them again, how cold it would be! But Ang Lee has immediately told the producer to buy a few thin and warm clothes for me.
Ang Lee has never left any detail of this movie out, even finger nails, even we were not yet to film the fingers: “Your nails are too long, ancient people wouldn’t have such long nails.” Later, the crew was saying: “This director can’t be any better.” When I finished my parts of the movie, I always sat silently aside to watch how Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh played their parts. But whenever Ang Lee saw me, he would urge me to practice sword play again. Sometimes he thought I might be too boring to practice alone, he would try to work it out with me. Consequently twisted his own waist and leg. There is one thing both Ang Lee and ZY in common, they all devote everything to their movies, even their own health.
I was mostly inspired by CTHD’s choreographer Yuen Wo-Ping. He is an very experienced artist, he has choreographed the fight scenes for superstars like Jackie Chan and Chow Yun Fat before. He always encouraged me on the side when Ang Lee was unsatisfied with my fight scenes, and taught me all the tricks hand to hand. His personality and virtue showed me how to encourage and support inexperienced actors.
And also my stunt double. She is also a girl. During one fight scene, my thumb and middle finger’s nails were chopped off. I endured my tears the first time because I didn’t want to ruin my makeup. But the second time the same wound was hit again, I bursted into tears eventually. Later I fought with the stunt double with real weapons. I accidentally chopped off her nail and her hand was immediately bleeding. I know how painful that is because I’ve endured the same thing. But she just said to me: “It doesn’t matter, you hit me because you are just Zhang Ziyi, not the martial arts instructor. It can happen any time.” I was really moved, she didn’t blame me for a bit, or spout any lectures to me. Again, I’ve learned a lot from her…
Translated by RGR101 for HelloZiyi.us