Zhang Ziyi Had Some Unique Training For Her House Of Flying Daggers Role
China-based actress Zhang Ziyi has starred in some of the most celebrated martial arts films of all time, and pulled off incredible feats in the process. She carried her weight against titans like Tony Leung, Jet Li and Maggie Cheung in Zhang Yimou’s 2004 epic “Hero.” She totally stole the show — while dangling 60 feet above the ground — in Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” She even faced off with Ip Man (Tony Leung again) in Wong Kar-wai’s “The Grandmaster.” But according to the Zhang herself, one of her most difficult roles to date came in “House of Flying Daggers,” her third collaboration with Zhang Yimou.
In “Daggers,” Zhang plays Mei, a blind dancer who may or may not be an assassin in disguise. The actress told IGN about her role in the film and the challenge it posed. “This is a [difficult] role because not only am I blind but I have to fight blind,” she explained. “I had to learn how to live, how to fight, how to dance and then to do all of this as a blind girl.” Naturally, it wasn’t easy — but for Zhang, who strives to bring “everything I have” to each role, it was also an opportunity.
Zhang was juggling a lot while preparing for “Daggers.” Spending two months training to fight and dance came easily enough, but all that still had to be filtered through the experience of being blind. For that, Zhang turned to an unconventional teacher. “I lived with a real blind girl who was 14 years old,” she told IGN. The actress learned by watching and mimicking the girl’s movements and reactions, even asked the film’s assistant directors to record the process.
“The A.D.’s helped me by videotaping us together,” Zhang told Variety in 2005. “I’d then watch the tapes and see how the both of us react to the same things.”
In turn, Zhang recalled teaching the girl a few things as well. “I taught her some martial arts that use bamboo, because I think the reaction is different.” There were other things that Zhang couldn’t teach. “She can’t run, the blind girl,” Zhang told IGN. “I took her to a very, very big empty space and she was so scared, she wouldn’t run. I told her, ‘Come on, please!’ but she was so scared.”
Ultimately, Zhang borrowed more than just mannerisms from her teacher. According to Variety, it was the girl’s inner-strength that inspired Zhang as well. It’s an inner-strength, maybe even a rebellious spirit, that has made Zhang such a force on-screen. Her dedication to all her roles, no matter the difficulty, always shines through. But what makes the actress so exhilarating to watch is her ability to make it all look easy.