Biography of Zhang ZiYi
Zhang Ziyi was born the 9th of February 1979, in Beijing, China. Her father worked as an economist and her mother was a kindergarden teacher. After some friends were expressed concerned she that was too frail, her parents encouraged her to take up dance and gymnastics to build up her strength.
So before Zhang Ziyi became an actress, she spent years training in traditional Chinese folk dance, first in elementary school at the Xuanwu District Children's Palace, and later at the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy. Ziyi eventually became a national champion by winning the Performance Prize at the 1994 Taoli Cup Dance Competition.
Even though a career in dance seemed promising for Ziyi, she became frustrated with the art by the time she was 15, and opted to persue acting instead. Zhang Ziyi therefore enrolled in the Central Drama Academy in Beijing, where she received her dramatic training. It was at this time that Zhang Ziyi made her first movie, Touching Starlight. Soon after, Ziyi got her big break. Zhang Ziyi auditioned for a shampoo commercial, directed by Zhang Yimou (one of China's most renowned directors). The director of many successful film, including Raise the Red Lantern, used the commercial as a way to audition actresses for his upcoming film.
For her first major film, The Road Home, Zhang Yimou selected Ziyi from thousands of applicants to play Zhao Di, a young girl who falls in love with the new teacher who has come to her town in rural China. The Road Home won the Jury Grand Prix Silver Bear at the 2000 Berlin Film Festival. Zhang Ziyi won the Hundred Flowers award for her performance.
When Ang Lee was casting actors for his martial-arts marvel, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, he had famous Taiwanese actress Shu Qi in mind for the role of butt-kicking aristocrat Jen Yu. But after seeing Zhang Ziyi's performance in The Road Home, he knew she had be the one for the role and she probably only exceeded Lee's expectations.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon became one of the biggest hits of 2000 (and the most popular foreign films in US history), and went on to earn a roaring $130 million at the box office and garner 4 Academy Awards, among the long list of awards it won.
The film's success ensured that Zhang Ziyi would become a familiar face to filmgoers, as the high-flying, graceful martial artist who shares fight scenes with Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat and has a romance with Chang Chen in the Gobi Desert.
Her role garnered her the Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2000 as well as the MTV Movie Award for Best Fight Scene in 2001, and many others. Zhang Ziyi was also one of People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in the World, in 2001.
Zhang Ziyi was cast to play the villain in the summer 2001 smash hit Rush Hour 2. This Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker cop comedy is actually the highest grossing film Ziyi has appeared in. Zhang Ziyi plays the role of Hu Li, an assassin whose weapon of choice is the biggest bomb she can carry. Highlights of her role include looking good, acting crazy, and kicking Chris Tucker's ass. Zhang Ziyi's great at all three, while Chan and Tucker add the laughs.
She was next seen in a Korean film entitled Musa, in which she portrayed a Ming princess taken hostage by Mongolian raiders. Korea's response to Gladiator, this was the biggest and most successful film project in Korean history. Gritty and realistic violence dominates the style of Musa. After this Zhang Ziyi returned to work with Zhang Yimou to make Hero, another martial arts masterpiece.
Her first mature dramatic role was in Purple Butterfly. In 1930s Shanghai, a vulnerable young woman named Xin Xia (Cynthia) joins the resistance and is tasked with seducing her former Japanese lover, who now works for Japanese intelligence. The slow, dark, intense film was rejected by many critics because of its visual style and its dense, subtle plotting, which when understood creates a disturbingly compelling historical atmosphere. The acting was widely praised as the movie's greatest strength.
She next worked on 2046. A blend of classic romance and science fiction from Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai. In it, a writer with painful memories of love tries to escape from them both in life and in writing. A series of love stories alternating between this world and his fictional world of 2046 explore the depths of human passion and heartbreak. Zhang Ziyi plays Bai Ling, a woman who moves in next door and soon becomes his lover. Her most ravishing and mature role yet, a huge step past Purple Butterfly in her growth as an actress. She was nominated Best Leading Actress at the Golden Horse awards, Taiwan's equivalent to the Oscars.
Her favorite recent performance was in Jasmine Women. A story of love and loss in three generations of a single family in Shanghai. Zhang Ziyi plays mother, daughter, and granddaughter as the film moves from the 1930's to the 1950's to the 1970's. Due to be widely released soon in China, Ziyi has already been awarded China's most presitigious Best Actress award for her performance.
Zhang Ziyi rejoined great director Zhang Yimou of Hero and The Road Home to take the next step in wuxia martial arts films, House of Flying Daggers. This is Zhang Ziyi's biggest action role since Crouching Tiger. A much more emotional story than Hero, culminating in a spectacular if melodramatic ending.
Zhang Ziyi recently finished filming Operetta Tanuki Goten, a Japanese film. Ziyi plays a raccoon spirit princess in this musical love-story directed by Seijun Suzuki.. Her character, Tanuki-hime, falls in love with a human prince who has been banished from his father's castle, played by Jo Odagiri. For her role in the film, Zhang Ziyi took a two week dancing and singing lesson in Japan. It should be released in Japan by May 2005. Zhang Ziyi just finished on the film adaptation of Memoirs of a Geisha, her first major Hollywood role.