Shanghai: Zhang Ziyi Calls on Chinese Actresses to Be “Fearless” When Choosing Roles
Speaking at the Shanghai International Film Festival, the actress urged the new generation of stars from China not to be afraid of failure.
Actress Zhang Ziyi led a celebration of Chinese women in cinema at this week’s Shanghai International Film Festival, and urged the country’s next generation of female stars to be “fearless” when choosing their roles.
The Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha star was taking part in a session titled “Her Film Era Forum: Life Without Limits” on the sidelines of the 25th edition of China’s preeminent festival where she discussed her own career and shared some of the lessons she has learned across almost three decades in film.
“You should always be curious and stick to it as your profession once you decide to join this industry,” Zhang said. “When facing new challenges, [women] need to be fearless instead of being afraid of failure. Success will not be guaranteed, but we will never know the result if we never make a start.”
The hope, Zhang said, was that young Chinese women were being inspired by what she and other stars had shown was possible to achieve.
“Everyone could take a brave step forward whether actively or passively, which will lead you to a different place in life,” said Zhang, who was also handed a Female Filmmaker of the Year award by SIFF sponsor Dior. “I think one person’s potential is unlimited. We cannot image how strong we are in many circumstances unless we are pushed forward. We should concentrate all our efforts to grab the opportunities when they come.”
The now 44-year-old actress was famously plucked from obscurity by director Zhang Yimou for her debut lead role in the romantic drama The Road Home and has since successfully crossed genres from comedy (Rush Hour 2) to martial arts epics (The Grandmaster), from rom-coms (My Lucky Star) to science fiction (Godzilla: King of the Monsters).
Zhang said initially she looked at acting as “just another life” but soon warmed to the challenge of seeing how far she could stretch her talents, driven by “curiosity” and “fearlessness.” She revealed that throughout her career, she had found the support of other women vital to her progress. “What’s particularly interesting is that almost all these people who give me help are women, and when a girl helps a girl, maybe that means she really understands you,” said Zhang.
There has been a significant focus on Chinese and Asian women in film at this year’s SIFF, which hosted the Chinese premiere of Everything Everywhere All at Once, the film that resulted in Malaysian-Chinese star Michelle Yeoh becoming the first woman from the region to be named Best Actress at the Academy Awards.
Yeoh has been among the biggest international stars to visit the festival this week, along with the multi-award-winning Chinese actress Zhao Tao, who arrived fresh from announcing she was soon to begin shooting her next collaboration with husband Jia Zhangke. We Shall Be All will follow the story of a woman’s life across the first two decades of the 21st century, and it’s the couple’s first feature since Ash Is Purest White competed for the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2018.