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Bey Logan
Producer , Screenwriter , Sports
785,382 views| 274  Posts

17-6-09: HANGING WITH GONG

 

Recording ‘ prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /Shanghai’ ADR in Beijing with China’s greatest actress.

 

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About ten years ago, I was riding upwards on the escalator in Hong Kong’s Pacific Place mall. To my surprise, I noticed Gong Li, like a goddess descending from the heavens, on the opposite side. Our paths crossed, for that moment, and I went away believing that was as close as I’d ever get to this legendary Chinese movie star.

 

As a die-hard Hong Kong action cinema fan, I initially had only a passing interest in the films shot north of the border. Yes, ‘ Shaolin Temple’ have given us Jet Li, and the later ‘Martial Arts of Shaolin’ (helmed by Shaw Bros veteran Lau Kar-leung) was pretty damn awesome, but the mainland had never really determined its own style of action cinema. I only really became aware of Chinese films when they started winning awards, and playing on London’s arthouse cinemas circuit. In that era, to know of mainland directors was to know of directors Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige and their shared muse, the luminous diva that is Gong Li…

 

I may have been more of a martial arts than an art house guy, but you didn’t need a degree in Film Studies to appreciate that the star of Red Sorghum, Judou and Raise The Red Lantern was a major new talent. To my surprise, Gong Li also started turning up in such Hong Kong productions as God of Gamblers 2 and Flirting Scholar (both opposite Stephen Chiau) and the delirious actioner ‘Semi-Dogs And Demi-Devils’. If nothing else, these films indicated that Gong, so strait-laced in her mainland movies, actually had a sense of humour (something borne out when I finally met her.)

 

The Chinese film that Gong Li is still best known for internationally is Farewell My Concubine, which should have won Best Foreign Film at that year’s Oscars. (The award went to a Spanish film, Belle Epoque, and who remembers that movie now?) Incidentally, Jackie Chan was offered the role played by Zhang Feng-yi, and it’s a shame these two great legends didn’t work together then, and have not since.

 

Gong dominated Chinese cinema to such an extent that, when she proved unavailable for the project, Chen Kaige begrudgingly began his film Temptress Moon with another actress, Iron Monkey’s Jean Wang, before summarily dismissing her when Gong Li did become available (and then, rather unkindly, criticizing Wang in the press.)

 

I was already in Hong Kong when Gong Li made her official English language premiere, Chinese Box. Its director, Wayne Wang, was working with Francis Coppola and various others to set up an Asian production company, Chrome Dragon. Donnie Yen and I were developing a film for them, but the new entity never really took off. I got to meet Maggie Cheung on the Chinese Box location, but not Gong. I later acted (if that’s not too strong a word) in Wong Kar-wai’s ‘2046’, as did Gong Li, but, again, our paths never crossed.

 

Like everyone, I was blown away by Gong Li’s performance in Memoirs of a Geisha, in which she made an incredibly auspicious Hollywood debut. She was also used to good effect in several other international films before getting cast in our TWC production ‘ Shanghai’. It was my pleasure to work with her on this film, and, in terms of diva-esque behaviour, it quickly became apparent that Gong Li does not come as advertised. She has a wry sense of humour (in all her languages), is committed to every aspect of her work and, judging from her boxing training with Benny Urquidez, packs a mean left hook…

 

 

I just flew to Beijing to do some ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording) with her. We met at the giant new China Film Group studios just outside the capital. Gong’s aide, the redoubtable Christophe, had called ahead to ask if we had any coffee. When I informed him that the only stuff available seemed to be a coconut flavoured powder, Gong Li wisely decided to bring her own.

 

Through the wonders of technology, we were connected to my colleagues at a studio in New York, so they could hear the relevant lines as they were being recorded. As expected, Gong Li was totally focused on the job at hand, standing in a sterile studio environment to recreate the emotions expressed on the soundstage, months earlier.

 

 

We took a break, and she headed for the canteen area, coffee powder in hand. How good is that stuff?, I ask her. “It’s good…” Very good? “It’s okay…” Is it, like, gourmet or regular? She looked up at me, raising an elegant eyebrow. “It tastes like coffee. Shall I make you some…?” Well, if you insist… Caffeine from the fair hand of Gong Li: it gets no better.

 

After the ADR session, I catch a ride back to the city in Li’s limo. We chat about the movie, other films and actors, life… She has fond memories of making Miami Vice for Michael Mann, and can’t wait to see Public Enemy. (“I’m jealous!” she says, of the actors working with Mann on that film.) When I drop her off, she kisses me on each cheek then, as she walks away from the car, ducks down to give me a goofy smile and wave. As her character in Miami Vice says to Colin Farrell, “Time is luck”, and I know I’m very lucky to spend time with a real life legend…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

over 9 years ago 0 likes  16 comments  0 shares
Raul
nice!! Gong Li is and will always be one of the best actresses
over 9 years ago
Photo 74817
You are pretty lucky! :)
over 9 years ago
Rottendoubt a4 patrick
I *LOVED* her in God of Gamblers 2. For a long time I didn't even realize it was her since it was such a different role than what she normally plays.
over 9 years ago
Photo 74817
Nice job man... Keep up the good work! :)
over 9 years ago
Photo 54026
活着, 红高粱 were incredible films!
over 9 years ago
Photo 23398
i just saw parts of chinese box on IFC last wk. She's one of my fav actors too. hope all is fabulous and congrats on working and appreciating a female talent! hugS
over 9 years ago
Photo 36306
Lucky, lucky, lucky! :)
over 9 years ago
Photo 442564
very lucky indeed!
over 9 years ago
Default avatar
She is GORGEOUS! How is she in the film Shanghai?
over 9 years ago
Default avatar
WHEN is this film going to open?, It keeps getting pushed back.
over 9 years ago
Photo 80548
Hey Bey, Great to work with Gong Li!! I did the ADR for Shanghai in London several times....You are the lucky one! :-)
over 9 years ago
Photo 479205
OH,God, I love her,everyone love her,she is NO.1 ,she will always be one of the best actresses
over 9 years ago
Default avatar
Oh, you're so lucky Bey! She's one of my fave actress from the mainland, first movie being Raise the Red Lantern. Of course Farewell My Concubine is also top of the list (plus Temptress Moon) because of beloved Leslie. I'm with you on that one . "What's the name of that Spanish movie again??" haha!!
over 9 years ago
Photo 353042
Bey I saw a a Shanghai in New York. It was good. She was amazing and so very beautiful. Don't know why you guys keep pushing it back.She is China's greatest actress and has been for over 20 yrs. She wiped the floor with Ziyi Zhang in MOAG. No compariosn. But I don't think American movies have even began to tap into her amazing talent yet.
over 9 years ago
Photo 353042
What an amazing profile!
over 9 years ago
Photo 284535
Gong Li is certainly a legend. Not meanign to be rude to the other chars in Geisha, I think her short appearance in it still showed the charisma shes got.. She had such a damn short play in that movie yet she managed to steal the show..
over 9 years ago

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Languages Spoken
english, cantonese, french
Location (City, Country)
Hong Kong
Gender
male
Member Since
April 8, 2008