Friday, May 8, 2009

Chang Chen: A Future Hollywood Heartthrob?

The UCLA Asian Art Institute publishes an excellent fortnightly online magazine, Asia Pacific Arts. Each issue contains interviews, reviews, articles - all good reading - and usually a Top Ten list. Well, I love lists, and the most recent issue's is entitled Hot Asian Actors Hollywood Doesn't Yet Realize It Needs. The accompanying article is a call to Hollywood to look beyond the stereotypes and start casting as leading men some of the many Asian actors with sex appeal. The list is of "men who are striking enough to cater to international, cosmopolitan, mainstream tastes". And it names ten actors who the authors (perhaps somewhat hopefully) dream might one day enjoy the same status in Hollywood as the Brad Pitts and Denzel Washingtons.

There was only one Chinese actor on the list, but a good choice: Taiwan's charismatic Chang Chen (張震, pinyin: Zhāng Zhèn). Chang made his film debut as a 16 year-old in Edward Yang's A Bright Summer Day back in 1991. His filmography since then includes a lot of arthouse roles that - despite his good looks, cool demeanour and undoubted acting ability - didn't have a lot of commercial success. A noticeable exception was the international blockbuster Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in which he starred as Zhang Ziyi's lover.

Recently it appears that Chang has been seeking more mainstream roles, which may cement his place as one of China's biggest stars. Last year he was in another major hit, John Woo's historical epic Red Cliff, and this year in it's equally successful sequel. He was expected to star in John Woo's next movie, a war film titled 1949, until the announcement last month that the project had been shelved. He has also been cast in another upcoming historical action film with the working title The Assassin, to be directed by Taiwanese auteur Hou Hsiao-Hsien.

Whether Chang can, in the article's words "blast through the glass ceiling" and make his name in Hollywood remains to be seen, but he's certainly one of the Chinese actors to look out for.

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