Zhang Ziyi was born and raised in Beijing, China on the 9th of February 1979 by Zhang Yuanxiao, an accountant and later economist, and Li Zhousheng, a kindergarten teacher. She was very close to her older brother, Zhang Zinan. As a little girl, Ziyi was seen by her friends as being too frail which leads her to begin studying dance at 8 years old; she took up gymnastics and dance to built up her strength. She spent years training in traditional Chinese folk dance, first in elementary school at the Xuanwu District Children’s Palace. Subsequently, she joined the Beijing Dance Academy by her parents’ suggestion at the age of 11. While at this boarding school, she noticed how mean the other girls were to each other while competing for status amongst the teachers. Zhang disliked the attitudes of her peers and teachers so much that, on one occasion, she ran away from the school. At the age of 15, Zhang won the National Youth Dance Championship and began appearing in television commercials in Hong Kong.
In 1996, Zhang entered China’s prestigious Central Academy of Drama at the age of 17. The same year, she got the lead in her first movie, the small-budget TV Movie Touching Starlight where she played an aspiring dancer whose hopes and dreams for the future were dashed when her leg was amputated due to cancer. Gradually, local newspapers and small magazines began to take Ziyi as their cover girl, which became the pride of her father when he bought tons of the first magazine she appeared on the cover and distributed them to the costumers in his office.
She also filmed some commercials for brands like Beijing Liquor and China Mobile. She was seen in an Olay campaign based in Hong Kong alongside Chinese superstars like Maggie Cheung and Joan Chen. At this time, the little Ziyi was still unknown.
While auditioning for a shampoo commercial in 1998, she was discovered by Zhang Yimou before graduation. She got her big break in China when Zhang Yimou, who was using the commercial as a way to find the perfect actress for his next movie, gave her the lead role in The Road Home. The movie was released a year later in China and won the Silver Bear award at the 2000 Berlin Film Festival. At the Hundred Flowers Awards Ceremony that year, she won her first prestigious prize of Best Actress in The Road Home.
Ziyi was cast in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon alongside Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh, after being recommended to director Ang Lee by Zhang Yimou. Ziyi had to study “not only martial arts, but disposition, classic movement, calligraphy, etiquette, voice. Diving-she never dived before.” Her character required a highly trained and skillful martial artist. Ziyi who never had any martial arts training, used her dance techniques to learn her moves in the action scenes. Crying every night, the intensive training and filming gave the actress one of the hardest time of her life.
The movie became the most successful foreign movie of all time by winning hundred of prizes worldwide and grossing more than 200 million worldwide. She garnered tons of awards around the world, such as Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, Toronto Film Critics Association Awards and Independent Spirit Awards and a Golden Bauhinia Awards in Hong Kong. Everybody now knows Ziyi as the dragon-girl (or the little Gong Li).
Ziyi later got a supporting role in the most awaited film of 2001 in China, the Hong Kong-China’s co-production from director Tsui Hark, The Legend of Zu, based on the same source as the 1983 film Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain. Ziyi’s first appearance in an American movie was in Rush Hour 2 where she took a part initially written for a man, the role of a triad member. Ziyi could not speak English at the time. Her Chinese co-star Jackie Chan had to translate everything the rest of the crew were telling her. She was later seen in the South Korean blockbuster Musa: The Warrior, the biggest and most expensive film project in Korean history.
At the beginning of 2001, Ziyi was not only on the cover of several magazine in Mainland China but also in the United States. This international recognition gave her the opportunity to become the queen of commercials. She became the spokesperson for famous brands such as Lenovo, Maybelline, Tag Heuer, Visa, Soutec, Pantene, Coca-Cola…
One year after, Ziyi was cast in Hero, with her early mentor Zhang Yimou. The film was presented at the 2003 Berlin Film Festival in the official Competition where it won the Alfred Bauer Award. After screening in various festivals, Hero was a huge success in the English-speaking world and was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe award in the category of Best Foreign Language Film. Meanwhile, Ziyi was named ambassador of the Tibet Foundation that focused on helping Tibetan children to receive a better education.
She then signed on to film an avant-garde drama, Purple Butterfly, which competed at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. It was Ziyi’s first collaboration with a Sixth Generation director in China, this time with Suzhou River’s director Lou Ye. Unfortunately, the film’s reception was mixed by critics who praised the performances of the cast but criticized its structure. Later, she went back to South-Korea to film a cameo in the sequel of the comedy hit, My Wife is a Gangster. Afterwards, she became the face of the Japanese shampoo brand Asience. The campaign designer couldn’t find a woman more beautiful or who personified the Asian Beauty more than her: “What struck me [about her] is that she is extremely gracious, the extremely polite, patricial, like a dancer… it seems to me that, her being shy, but still you can still sense the strength and the character.”
2004 was a very important year in Ziyi’s career. She released three of her most important films and she did some of her most acclaimed performances. During the 57th Cannes Film Festival, two of her movies were selected. After more than four years of production with 2 years of filming, 2046, directed by festival’s legend Wong Kar Wai, was finally competing at Cannes. Although 2046 didn’t win the Golden Palm, Ziyi received lavish critical praise. Her performance was so surprising that Quentin Tarantino, who was the jury president this year, was thinking of giving her the title of Best Actress during the closing ceremony. Maggie Cheung actually received the honor, but Ziyi still won one of the most important prizes of her life, the best actress award at Hong Kong Film Awards. Also screened in Cannes, but not in competition, House of Flying Daggers, reuniting Ziyi and Zhang Yimou in this tragic Wu Xia film. Ziyi once again gave a strong performance that was awarded at the Huabiao Film Awards.
At the Shanghai Film Festival premiered the anticipated and highly feminist Jasmine Flower where Ziyi played the three principal roles. By playing the grandmother, the mother and the girl in their youthfulness in three different times, Ziyi won the most prestigious prize an actress could get in China during Golden Rooster Awards. After all the success, The film festival of Venice invited the actress to be a part of the jury, but she was just cast in Memoirs of a Geisha…
In 2005, Ziyi’s first Japanese movie, Princess Raccoon was released at 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Japanese New Wave legend Seijun Suzuki, this musical comedy retraced the love story between banished prince Amechiyo and the raccoon princess Tanukihime, disguised in human.
She then accepted the lead role of Sayuri in the film adaptation based on the international bestseller Memoirs of a Geisha. Controversy arose in Japan and China about having a Chinese woman portray a Japanese geisha. Steven Spielberg was supposed to direct the film but Rob Marshall was finally on board to direct it. The film reunited two other famous actress, Michelle Yeoh and Gong Li. For this film, Ziyi had to practice her english but also dance with platform shoes. She received a Golden Globe nomination, a Screen Actor Guild nomination, as well as a third BAFTA Nomination for this role. The Actress accepted an invitation to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, placing her among the ranks of those able to vote on the Academy Awards.
With a successful year behind her in the United States, Ziyi presented awards in all the prestigious American film ceremonies in the beginning of 2006.
She had the opportunity to pursue a Hollywood career, but chose to return to China instead, where mainland director Feng Xiaogang was trying to find the right actress to portray an empress inspired by Shakespeare’s character Gertrude in Hamlet. Ziyi gladly accepted the part in The Banquet alongside Daniel Wu, Ge You and Zhou Xun. The film competed at the 2006 Venice Film Festival and was shown at Toronto Film Festival in September. Moreover, Ziyi was invited to be a member of the jury at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. That year, Wong Kar Wai was the president of the jury. Already used to this festival, she became the youngest member of the jury of all time. Ziyi was also chosen to be the face of Garnier, the cosmetics brand of L’Oréal.
At the end of the year, Ziyi became Global Ambassador for Special Olympics movement. She joined a select group of celebrities who are dedicated to spreading the Special Olympics message and acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities: “As a Global Ambassador, I am committed to helping Special Olympics transform attitudes and dispel negative stereotypes on a global level,” said Ms. Zhang. “I hope to help people understand that we need to celebrate and appreciate differences. We all have worth, we all have value, and we’re all better off when we help each other out.”
In 2007, Ziyi began dating Israeli venture capitalist Vivi Nevo. At the time in China, this new relationship was very criticized. In May, she was one of the prestigious guests invited to the premiere of “Chacun son Cinéma”, a special film to celebrate the 60 years of the festival. She also appeared in front of the Palais des festivals on the official poster of the festival alongside Wong Kar Wai. At the dinner party, Ziyi met Chen Kaige who expressed his intentions of shooting a movie about the famous Peking Opera star Mei Lanfang. Ziyi showed her interest in the project.
Back to the United States, Ziyi provided the voice of Karai in the new animation movie of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and starred along with Dennis Quaid in the horror film The Horsemen where she got the part of a young psychopath. For her role, she was inspired by the performance of Anthony Hopkins in the skin of the cannibalistic Hannibal Lecter “You can see how he uses words … very carefully. None are wasted. I watched him in that performance countless times“. After many reshoots, the film was a complete failure.
The same year she became the new spokesperson for Platinum Guild International after the end of Maggie Cheung‘s contract. She won the Chinese World Influence Award and started helping abandoned and orphaned children with Care for Children.
Ziyi did a lot of endorsements in 2008. She signed contracts with many luxury brands such as Veva Mobile, SLK Mercedes and finally Omega. She promoted these products all around the world.
Then, she stars at the end of the year in the much-awaited biopic about Chinese Opera Superstar Mei Lanfang, Forever Enthralled, where she played the legendary Peking Opera Star Meng Xiaodong, the one true love of Mei Lanfang, played by Leon Lai. The film directed by the awarded Chen Kaige was surprisingly well received by Chinese public that was left profoundly touched by the story and the movie itself. Forever Enthralled was shown in the competition at the Berlin Film Festival, where it received positive responses, with critics calling it a sumptuous film.
The same year Ziyi attended the Cannes Film Festival with the goal to raise money. Indeed a terrible earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale hit the Chinese province of Sichuan, China, making many victims. Deeply affected by this tragic news and shedding some tears, the actress launched her personal foundation to raise money. Ziyi has made a personal donation of $144,000 and managed to raise a total of $400, 000. This day she met people unaware of the tragedy. “I was as angry as a madwoman. I said, ‘Are you idiots? You are well-dressed people who look like you identify with society, but you don’t know what’s going on on planet Earth.’ It’s incredible!“. She didn’t know it yet, even with these good intentions, she will be the aim two years after of a terrible scandal.
During the year, Ziyi traveled around the world for her TV documentary with National Geographic. She also went to Greece to attend the Olympic flame ignition. The 2008 Summer Olympic Games indeed took place in Beijing.
1999-2009, Ziyi had 30 years and she was happiest than ever – she was engaged to her fiancé Vivi Nevo – and ready for new challenges. While she was at the Berlin Film Festival, the actress celebrated her birthday and her 10 years of career. Indeed, this festival was the first in Ziyi’s Career where “The Road Home” was awarded with the silver bear.
Even if Ziyi was still happy being an actress, she wanted to try something new. She produced and starred in her first romantic comedy, Sophie’s Revenge, where she had the chance to show a much more funny side of herself. During 2009 Cannes Film Festival, Ziyi was a jury member of la Cinéfondation. While she was at Cannes, Ziyi launched the official website and the first trailer of the film. Sophie’s Revenge was released in summer 2009. Romantic comedies were not so popular in China but Sophie’s Revenge was a big hit and Ziyi’s popularity was at the top. She won her second Huabiao Film Award for her role in Chen Kaige’s Forever Enthralled and appeared in the all-star propaganda hit, The Founding of a Republic, the highest grossing film of Chinese Cinema history. Finally, Ziyi was preparing for her new role in the next Wong Kar Wai‘s film The Grandmaster with Tony Leung as Yip Man, Chang Chen as Bruce Lee and Zhao Benshan as a martial art master. Wong Kar Wai spent 7 years working on the project. The shooting started at the end of the year and Ziyi worked very hard.
Even if 2009 was a successful year, Ziyi was affected by several rumors. At the press conference of Sophie’s Revenge, a very persistent rumor was saying that Ziyi broke up with her fiancé. At the end of the year, a new scandal affected Ziyi when a mysterious man splashed black ink on a giant Ziyi Omega advert nearby her home.
In the beginning of year, Ziyi was in the Eye of the Storm. Chinese netizens insulted her with a lot of anger. Indeed, she was accused of charity fraud after her fundraising in Cannes. Ziyi said nothing for several weeks but was forced to explain what happened in a long Q&A with Raymond Zhou. “Ziyi has vehemently denied accusations that she committed fraud in the name of charity, but admitted to inexperience when organizing a donation drive for the relief of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake victims.” (China Daily – read the whole Q&A here). Ziyi was hurt more than ever. When the journalist asked her the impact of the scandal on her and her family, she replied (“fighting back tears”) “It’s about me and I have to face it. But I don’t want to see my family getting worried because of me…“, “there were moments I felt bad. I wanted to do something good, but we had our problems, such as my lack of experience, my failure to disclose to the public, my limited knowledge about philanthropy and other reasons.” Then the actress was very discrete and removed her diamond ring symbol of her engagement to Vivi Nevo.
In June, Ziyi went to Deyang. “After the project to build the Care for Children Deyang training and resource center was approved by the government, the Zhang Ziyi Foundation decided in November 2009 that the $400,000 raised in Cannes would be used for the project, said Glover, who expressed his heartfelt thanks to Zhang and the foundation.” (longe vitys). The funds will help to protect the town’s orphans and vagrant children of Deyang. “After two years of hard work, this project is finally underway” – “Home gives us a roof that shelters us from the wind and rain. It is a place where we can cry when we become exhausted or get hurt… I cannot imagine what it feels like to be homeless,” she said tearfully (Channel News Asia).
On September, Ziyi finally talked to the press after months of silence. The Chinese Harper’s Bazaar put Ziyi on the front page with an interview where she explained her despair and dark thoughts of the last months and the hard task it was to get through it.
On a professional level, Ziyi was supposed to star and produce with her friend Wendi Deng, “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan“, an adaptation from best-seller novel by Lisa See. She prepared the film for two years but was obliged to quit the project because of a surgery after doing an action scene in “The Grandmaster“. At Cannes Film Festival, “Hua Mulan”‘s film project was at the film market looking for investors. Ziyi planned to star and produce the movie about the famous Chinese warrior.
In the beginning of the year Gu Changwei’s engaged film “Love for life”, the new project of the famous cinematographer started filming in China with Ziyi on board. The film, adapted from a novel, was about a tragic love story between two AIDS-afflicted lovers in a small village in China. AIDS has always been a real taboo in China. The shooting was very difficult for Ziyi facing all her private problems. Deeply sensitized after the shooting of “Love for Live” Ziyi became the ambassadorship of the Chinese Red Ribbon foundation. “I have a taste to communicate with AIDS people by myself by co-starring with an AIDS infected boy in the film and now I further understand the importance to respect and help this group of people.”
Ziyi’s hard work finally got the praise she deserved, winning the prize of the Actress of the Decade during Hong Kong’s Cineasia Awards.
That year, she began filming commercials for Mengniu’s Milk products.
At the beginning of 2011, Ziyi started working on her new ambitious project “Hua Mulan” directed by US director Jan de Bont. Unfortunately, due to a lack of funding, the project was postponed and then canceled.
But this fail didn’t stop Ziyi. In May 2011, Love for Life was released in China in a heavily cut version to make the film more abordable to a vast Chinese audience and more commercially viable. The film was later shown at the Rome International Film Festival. Ziyi made one of her most memorable appearances on the red carpet the night of the screening of the film. Her performance was well received and she won the Lancia Award during the Rome Film Festival. She was also awarded in China during various ceremonies.
A Zhao Liang documentary, Together, featuring footage of the film with Ziyi, was shown at the Berlin Film festival.
In September, Ziyi started shooting a new film, Dangerous Liaisons adapted from the famous and classic Charles de Laclos‘s novel “Les Liaisons Dangereuses“. Ziyi was playing the Chinese equivalent of Madame de Tourvel, the naive and innocent woman manipulated by Madame de Merteuil and Valmont. She starred alongside Cecilia Cheung and Korean actor Dong-gun Jang. The film was directed by Korean director Jin-ho Hur.
During the year, Ziyi was named ambassador for various new Asian film festivals including ScreenSingapore and the Beijing Film Festival as well as the Chinese Film Media Awards.
In 2012, soon after completing the shooting of Dangerous Liaisons, she started filming a new very mysterious project about the famous Tsinghua University directed by female director Li Fangfang.
The shooting over, Ziyi continued the shooting of “The Grandmaster” and was not able to promote Dangerous Liaisons in Cannes. Indeed, Dangerous Liaisons was selectionned at the Director’s Fortnight, part of the Cannes Film Festival. The film, Ziyi and Cecilia Cheung received many positive reviews and a standing ovation with long applause after the screening at Cannes.
Even if The Grandmaster was missing at Cannes this year, Wong Kar Wai sent a new footage of his film featuring Ziyi fighting in the snow. The audience was very impressed and moved by the beauty of the footage.
Ziyi promoted Dangerous Liaisons in China, Korea and the Toronto Film Festival where it was screened.
The same year, the actress was also chosen as a new ambassador for Bulgari – Save the Children. She was later honored by the New York Asian Film Festival. She also served as a spokesperson for the Chinese brand Guizhou Braun.
After years of production, The Grandmaster was finally released in China. The reception was more than favorable and the film was a hit at the box office. The film tells the story of a legend, the martial artist Ip Man, played by Tony Leung, and other martial artists. The shooting was very difficult “We trained for about six months, and it was very intense. Wong Kar Wai wanted us to become martial artists before we started the movie.” – (The daily beast). In the film Ziyi plays Gong Er and she delivered one of her most astonishing and moving performance “She’s a very strong lady. You know in the old days in China, females were not allowed to learn kung fu. But Gong Er’s father taught her secretly, and she became a grandmaster. Her father not only taught her physical skills but more importantly, she learned how to be herself, know herself and do what she feels is right.” (NRP). Ziyi’s performance was highly praised and she received tons of Best Actress awards in Asia such as a Golden Horse Award, a second Hong Kong Film Award, a second Hundred Flowers Award, a third Huabiao Award, and many more. The Film opened the 63rd Berlin Film Festival. The version screened was edited for the European public and cut 10 minutes shorter. A third cut was released in the United States by the Weinstein Company in a shorter and more linear version. The film was later selected as the Hong Kong entry for Oscars and was eventually nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design.
Then, Ziyi appeared in Chinese Lunar New Year romantic comedy Better and Better, directed by Zhang Yibai. Featuring tons of guest appearances from lots of Chinese celebrities, the actress only filmed a few scenes as she played herself.
This year Ziyi tried something new. She was chosen to be a judge and music coach of X-Factor China, mentoring the “Boys” category. It was broadcast between April and June 2013 on Hunan Television. Lo Ta-yu, Eason Chan and Zheng Jun were also part of the jury. During the episode aired on June 14th, Ziyi was very upset by harsh comments made by Lo Ta-yu to her protégé Zeng Yiming and left the stage in tears. Zeng Yiming later went on to become the first winner of the show.
Even with a hectic schedule, Ziyi traveled to France in May to serve as a jury member of Un Certain Regard at the 66th Cannes Film Festival. She later received the Knight medal of the Order of Arts and Letters of the French Ministry of Culture.
The filming of John Woo’s long-delayed project The Crossing finally began in Beijing in July.
In September 2013, Ziyi’s second effort as a producer My Lucky Star was released in Chinese theaters and in the United States. American female Director Dennie Gordon, known for comedies What a Girl Wants and Joe Dirt, accepted to make the film even though most of the dialogues were in Chinese mandarin. The film is a prequel to “Sophie’s Revenge”. With a limited budget of 8 million, they only had a 56-day schedule to film it all. In spite of the mix of different genres not frequently seen in Chinese films such as Adventure, Action and Comedy, the film received mixed reviews, but the performance of Ziyi was still praised. During the promotion of the film the actress explained why she wanted to shoot comedies “Actually the character in My Lucky Star resembles my character a lot more than my other movies. Those movies really required very serious acting, to be immersed in the emotions, to express those emotions deeply and adequately. So no one director has ever approached me to shoot a comedy. […] But I do feel a little tired. So I thought I’d make movies like My Lucky Star and Sophie’s Revenge.” Moreover, Ziyi appeared in two Music Videos to promote the film in China. The first was a duet with the film co-star Wang Leehom and the second was a rap duet with Chinese X-Factor contestant Shui Yinxi.
Finally, on November 9th, Ziyi attended Wang Feng’s concert in Shanghai. After months of speculations about a romantic relationship between the actress and the singer, Wang Feng declared her love to Ziyi in front of many spectators. The actress was moved to tears…
2014 was once and again a great year for Ziyi. The actress received several prizes for her role as Gong Er in Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster. She was awarded at the 25th Hong Kong Directors’ Guild Awards, the 20th Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards, 8th Asian Film Awards, 33rd Hong Kong Film Awards. Finally, the actress celebrated her 10th award during a party at the 4th Beijing Film Festival. But the story doesn’t end here. In September, Ziyi received one of the most prestigious prizes in China during the 32nd Hundred Flowers Awards. During the same ceremony Wonk Kar Wai was also awarded for best director and best film. The Grandmaster became the most popular Chinese films Ziyi ever worked on.
The same year, Ziyi was one of the main characters of the ambitious project of the famous director John Woo, The Crossing. In a two-part epic, this war-time drama follows the fortunes of three men inextricably linked by fate. Ziyi took the part of Yu Zhen, a nurse driven to prostitution because she “never had such tragic experiences” in her life and had not played such a role before. “When I first received the script, it touched me, especially the emotions each character went through.” (Source). The cast promoted the film at the Cannes film festival. The Crossing: Part 1 premiered at the 25th Singapore International Festival and was released in Chinese theaters in December. Sadly, the film was not as successful as expected.
Moreover, Ziyi started to shoot a new film called The Wasted Times and announced a new project as a producer called Oh My God.
In April, Coldplay released a music video for their new single, Magic. In this short film, Ziyi played Cecile, a stage magician who performs magic in a traveling circus with Christophe (Chris Martin), a young magician who serves as Cecile’s assistant. Cecile is married to Claude (also played by Chris Martin), a famous magician who, in addition to being an alcoholic, is violently aggressive to his wife. Ziyi said “Coldplay songs are my favorites, but I’d never imagined that leading man Chris Martin would also love my movies. He invited me and the director is a longtime friend of mine, so this is it.” Indeed, the music video marks the second collaboration between Jonas Akerlund and Ziyi, after The Horsemen.
In June, Ziyi was in France to receive the “Swan d’honneur” of the best actress during the Cabourg Romantic Film Festival. It’s was great opportunity to see Ziyi and Sophie Marceau together on the red carpet.
The same year, Ziyi tried new things. She lends her voice to a villain character in the animated film Where’s The Dragon?. Ziyi also became the spokesperson of Tiffany & Co and Proya.
2015 started just like 2014. Ziyi promoted the 3D version of The Grandmaster in China. In this 4th version of the film, Wong Kar Wai added a fantastic scene of Gong Er’s 64 hands…
In April, the actress appeared at the MET Gala 2015: ‘China: Through the Looking Glass’ along with Gong Li and Michelle Yeoh. The actress was divine in her Carolina Herrera dress, a collaboration of 3 months work. ‘She’s given the qipao [cheongsam] a gorgeous red-carpet feel’ said Ziyi. (Source)
On a personal side, her boyfriend and famous musician and singer Wang Feng proposed at her birthday party. The actress said ‘Yes’ and posted a message on her Weibo saying “Yes, I will” (marry you).
On May 10th, Ziyi and Wang Feng got secretly married.
In early August, while the actress was promoting her new film as producer Oh My God, she appeared at a press conference with a fake baby bump… According to rumors, the actress was pregnant. By the end of July, The Crossing: Part II was released in China and was almost ignored by Chinese audiences.
On the 27th of August, Wang Feng released his new Music Video called Nowhere to Belong and starring Ziyi. The music video was directed by a friend of the couple, Zhang Yibai. The song is a beautiful declaration of love to Ziyi. At the time, no one knew that Ziyi was pregnant with her first child…
Ziyi was last seen during an event for I Pinco Pallino in Beijing. Then, she left China for the United States.
In late December, Ziyi gave birth to her first child, a girl named Xingxing. She shared the fantastic news on here weibo along with a cute picture and this statement ‘December 27th, 2015, you, me, her … With the birth of this little life, we have our own family. Everything went safely and smoothly. Infinite gratitude!’
2016 was a very quiet year for Ziyi.
On Valentine’s day, the anthology film Run for Love was released in China. The romantic film features 5 love stories in different countries around the world. Ziyi’s segment, “So Long My Love” was directed by Zhang Yibai in Japan, with Eddie Peng as her love interest. The short film pays a tribute to a very popular Japanese film, Love Letter, directed by Shunji Iwai.
After giving birth she stayed in the United States for a while but came back to China to celebrate her daughter’s 100 days.
On September, she served as a jury of the Platform category at the 41st Toronto Film Festival, along with Brian de Palma and Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, making her the first Chinese woman to serve as a jury member of the festival. She also attended a special interview “In Conversation with Zhang Ziyi”, speaking about her career and her work.
After the World premiere at the Toronto Film Festival was canceled for unknown reasons, The Wasted Times premiered in China and the United States with positive reviews from Chinese critics and negative reviews from the American ones. The Wasted times is a story of love, hatred, and betrayal abound in Shanghai during the chaotic, war-torn 1930’s. This film marked the second collaboration of Ziyi and Ge you, after having worked together in Feng Xiaogang’s The Banquet. Ziyi said she, Ge, Yan Ni, and other non-Shanghai natives practiced the Shanghai dialect very hard for the film. Indeed most of its dialogue is in Shanghai dialect. (Source). The film was released at the same time as the latest film directed by Zhang Yimou “The Great Wall”, competing with the blockbuster starring Matt Damon. Ziyi gave a remarkable performance in the movie.
This year, Ziyi joined an impressive list of stars to be photographed by Peter Lindbergh for the prestigious Pirelli Calendar in 2017. The pictures are absolutely breathtaking. Ziyi said “I just feel the freedom and he really didn’t give me any pressure so I wanted to do more and didn’t feel tired. I wanted to continue forever.”
This year, Ziyi was engaged in various projects. The actress joined a new major franchise with Godzilla: King of the Monsters, slated to be released at the beginning of 2019. During a press conference for Forever Young the actress said “It’s not about a return (in Hollywood). I’ve never thought I belonged to Hollywood. To be honest, it’s easy for me to perform in a Hollywood commercial film. Except that I miss home and delicious Chinese food, such as hotpot. I was still breastfeeding my daughter when shooting God Particle. And as the workload was not heavy, I thought it might be a good idea to take the job.”
In April, Ziyi was nominated for a third time at the China Film Director’s Guild Awards for her work in The Wasted Times. Unfortunately, she didn’t win the price. But the film won big at the 9th Macau International Movie Festival winning Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Newcomer. Ziyi was present at the ceremony to accept her prize.
At the beginning of October, Ziyi joined a TV reality show called The Birth of an Actor as a mentor, along with Liu Ye and Song Dandan. This show was a great opportunity to see Ziyi in several shorts inspired by famous Chinese films. One memorable moment was the Stanley Kwan movie “Rouge“. She played the part of Anita Mui and Zhou Yiwei the part of Leslie Cheung. Then, Zhou Yiwei was chosen to be in Ziyi’s team before finally winning the show.
At the beginning of 2017, Ziyi was named Global Ambassador for the Children of China Pediatrics Foundation. The CCPF provides care for children with disabilities in China’s orphanages by providing exceptional multi-specialty medical treatment and hands-on training and medical education for their providers and caregivers. The actress wrote an open letter saying “A year ago, I was blessed with the birth of my daughter and I’ve experienced first-hand the joy and emotions of caring for a child. I have come to understand how precious and children are. […] This will be a personal journey for me. As a new mother and as advocate for orphaned children, I feel it is my duty to reach out those who cannot help themselves.”
The High jewelry brand Buccellati chose Ziyi as their new spokesperson. In December, she went to Italy to participate in “A Day with Ziyi in Florence” photographed by Peter Lindbergh.
At the end of the year, the actress promoted the long-awaited film, Forever Young. The cast and the director attended a press conference in Beijing to announce the official release date, which was January 12th, 2018. From World War, to revolution and ultimately rebirth, Forever Young is the story of four generations spanning a hundred years of modern Chinese history. The movie was first slated for a 2012 release in order to celebrate Tsinghua University’s 100th anniversary.
Forever Young was surprisingly real hit at the Chinese box office. The film took in $46.6 million accumulating $68.3 million in 10 days and catapulting it to one of the year’s top-grossing films (Source) despite some sensitive topics. Ziyi played Wang Minjia, a woman from the 1950s who go through terrible events: “Without courage and endurance, an ordinary person would find it difficult to get through life.” The film was said to be Ziyi’s biggest success at the Chinese box office beating “The Grandmaster”.
The Cloverfield Paradox was finally released, not in theatres but on Netflix the night of the Super Bowl. The film is about a shocking discovery that forces a team of astronauts aboard a space station to fight for survival while their reality has been altered. Ziyi is a Chinese astronaut named Tam who only speaks Chinese Mandarin while the rest of the crew all speak English but understand her.
The birth of Xingxing deeply changed Ziyi: “My understanding of life has changed. After having a child, I have become very scared of death”.
Last update: February 2018