The best and worst uses of Chinese stars in Hollywood films

Where to spot your favourite Chinese movie stars in Western blockbusters

Blockbuster season is now in full swing, and in China that means one thing is for sure: a summer full of token appearances by Chinese actors! Already this year, Jing Tian showed up in Kong: Skull Island, while Donnie Yen kicked some butt in xXx: Return of Xander Cage. This summer promises more, too, with Kris Wu popping up in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, slated for release later this year. With all that in mind, we’ve broken down some of the recent appearances from Chinese stars in Hollywood blockbusters.

Kong: Skull Island

jing tian

Chinese actress Jing Tian is very unconvincingly supposed to be a biologist taking part in an expedition to the titular island full of monsters in Kong: Skull Island. Her actual job, however, is to just stand around looking pretty. And we mean that literally: she’s in the background of lots of shots, but Kong: Skull Island would be exactly the same movie without her character. She has exactly nine lines, not counting the post-credits teaser (yes, we counted).

X-Men: Days of Future Past

fan bingbing

'Time’s up!' That’s Fan Bingbing’s one and only line in this X-Men movie, sparing us the need to count. Fan plays a mutant named Blink, presumably so everyone could make 'blink and you miss it' jokes about her appearance in the movie. It should be noted that Fan’s the queen of unnecessary superhero movie appearances, having previously appeared in a ludicrous China-only scene in Iron Man 3 in which Tony Stark comes to the Middle Kingdom for heart surgery.

Independence Day: Resurgence


We’ll say this for Angelababy: she made off better than Fan Bingbing. The doe-eyed Chinese star gets multiple lines in Independence Day: Resurgence. Those multiple lines aren’t exactly key to the plot, however, and her performance is wooden even by the low standards of a token role in a movie like this. Between that and her embarrassing English name, we’re willing to wager that Angelababy will remain a China-only star for the foreseeable future.

Now You See Me 2


It may be a completely unnecessary sequel ('what if magicians robbed banks...a second time!'), but we’ll give Now You See Me 2 credit for casting an Asian star who’s neither a cute Chinese girl nor a kung fu warrior. Instead they got Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou to show up for, you guessed it, a pretty minor role. It paid off though: the movie was a surprise hit in China, making more here than in the US.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

rogue one

And now we come to the gold standard for Chinese roles in Hollywood movies. Both Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen get multiple lines and actual characters in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, playing key members in what’s essentially a big ensemble piece. Even with their presence, the movie wasn’t huge hit in China, but perhaps that’s not too surprising considering it’s a nostalgic prequel to a movie most people in China never saw.

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