Westerners who care about film, and they’d easily be able to rattle off a list
of Chinese directors. Ask them to name some Chinese actors who don’t do kung
fu, however, and they’re likely to come up blank. Luckily for you, we’ve
provided a cheat sheet to help you know all the names you’re likely to see at
the top of a movie poster.
You has the most distinct, delightfully Beijing-accented voice of any actor
working today. He’s also known for his artistic versatility, with roles ranging
from heavy drama to light comedy. Ge’s worked with heavyweight directors like
Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou, but it’s a series of films he made with frequent
collaborator Feng Xiaogang that really made his name in China.
to watch He’s
quite good in most of his movies with Feng Xiaogang, but Ge’s greatest role is
his star turn in Zhang Yimou’s To Live, which rightfully won him the
award for best actor at Cannes.
first broke out in Zhang Yimou’s Red Sorghum, which helped establish a
frequent screen persona for him: earthy, straight-forward and often a bit
foul-mouthed. Most Chinese audiences, though, first came to know him as a
striving immigrant in the hit TV series A Beijinger in New York. Since
then, Jiang found his greatest success as a director, but has also kept acting,
most recently appearing in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
to watch Red
a good showcase of Jiang’s appeal, but he’s at his best both starring and
directing in his 2000 masterpiece Devils on the Doorstep.
any successful recent Chinese comedy and you’re likely to find the same actor
in it – Huang Bo (pictured above left). This is certainly because of his range and abilities as an
actor, but also because (and we mean this in the best way, really) he’s also
just funny looking, with a dopey, at times wonderfully elastic face. Beyond
being a funnyman, Huang’s also proved that he can play serious with roles in
comic dramas like Cow.
to watch Huang’s
often the best thing about otherwise mediocre comedies (Lost in Thailand,
Breakup Buddies), but our favourite role of his remains his first, as a
bumbling crook in the 2006 heist comedy Crazy Stone.
old to really be considered little fresh meat (xiaoxianrou, the Chinese
term for cute young male stars), Huang’s appeal still mainly lies in being a
heartthrob (pictured above right). He’s one of the top-earning performers in China and not a bad
actor, but his most famous role has been in his wedding with fellow star Angelababy
(possible couple name: Huangelababy? Just throwing it out there!)
to watch A
double pairing of Hollywood Adventures and American Dreams in China
is the perfect way to watch Huang discover the dangers of the USA.
we’re talking little fresh meat! Former K-pop star Wu may have a weirdly
plasticine face that makes him look constantly pissed off (or at least mildly
constipated), but that hasn’t stopped millions of girls in China from swooning
over him. His inexplicable appeal to women means he’s like the Shia Labeouf of
China, but with less annoying 'performance art' antics.
to watch Mr.
smartly casts Wu as a villain, acting as a foil to the middle-aged hero who
just wants all these prissy kids to get off his damn courtyard.
frequent early work with Zhang Yimou (some have described her as his muse) has
rightfully made her one of the most internationally recognized Chinese
actresses. While that remarkable run in the ‘80s and ‘90s will continue to
define her career, she’s appeared in movies ranging from Wong Kar-wai’s 2046
to this year’s blockbuster The Monkey King 2.
to watch You
can’t go wrong with any of her collaborations with Zhang Yimou. Our personal
favourite is her role as an imprisoned newlywed in Raise the Red Lantern.
has pegged Zhao Wei as China’s wealthiest working actress, and while there’s no
denying her popularity as a performer, what’s really made her a billionaire (in
USD, not RMB) has been her smart investment moves, especially in Alibaba
Pictures. On top of all that, she’s appeared in box office hits like Red
Cliff and Painted Skin.
to Watch Zhao
shot to fame through hit TV shows and some big-screen epics, but we prefer her
co-starring role in the Stephen Chow classic Kung Fu Soccer, plus last
year’s Johnnie To thriller Three.
person better captures the difference in Western and Chinese beauty standards
than Fan Bingbing. In our eyes, she resembles an emaciated ghost or strangely
fragile vampire, but her pale, pale skin and absurdly fine features have
established her as a standard for beauty in China and made her probably the
most popular actress in the country.
to watch Fan’s
popularity doesn’t have much connection to acting talent. Still, we give her
credit for trying (if not fully living up to the role) in Feng Xiaogang’s
recent satire I Am Not Madame Bovary.