Actress Zhang Ziyi charms TIFF audience
The importance of hard work and perseverance, along with a little bit of luck, is perhaps the secret to acclaimed actress Zhang Ziyi’s success, both in China and Hollywood.
This came from the program A Conversation with ZhangZiyi, an on-stage interview at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Bell Lightbox cinema one week ago. More than 200 people gathered to see Zhang behind the big screen — hoping to get to know the star more in her most candid moments.
It was Zhang’s fourth appearance at the festival, and she refers to TIFF as an “old friend”.
“I always find it an enjoyable experience to be here,” she said. “From small-budget independent films to major productions, you truly get to see a wide range of films, directors and stars. This is also why TIFF is so well-respected and has such a great impact on the film industry globally.”
Zhang entered the world of arts when she joined the Beijing Dance Academy at the age of 11. However, after six years of tough training, she decided dancing wasn’t for her after all.
“I didn’t like it at all because I wasn’t good at it,” she said. “Even though I tried so hard, sneaking into the classroom to train in the dark. I [would] start crying — ‘Why I am doing this?’”
Finally at 17, she decided to switch to Beijing’s Central Academy of Drama, where she found dramatic acting more interesting but equally tough.
“In a dance school, you train your body,” she said. “But when in drama school, you train your voice.”
Zhang’s cinematic debut was in The Road Home, directed by acclaimed director Zhang Yimou in 1999. She then came to international prominence in her film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, directed by Ang Lee, as well as in other films including Hero, House of Flying Daggers and 2046.
She then crossed over to Hollywood in Rush Hour 2 and Memoirs of a Geisha, which earned her Golden Globe and British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) nominations. In her most recent work, The Grandmaster, she won 13 different best actress awards.
“I am always grateful to the people that ever helped me,” Zhang said. “In the beginning, I didn’t know I could be an actress, I didn’t know I had this skill. Step by step, they helped me, giving me these opportunities to develop all these characters, and to develop myself as well.”
Zhang was also a member of the Platform jury, along with American director Brian De Palma and French-Chadian director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun. The CAD $25,000 award was presented to Jackie, a biographical drama about former US first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, directed by Pablo Larrain, during the closing ceremony on Sept 18.
Actress Zhang Ziyi announces that the Toronto Platform Prize goes to Pablo Larraín for on Sept 18 in Toronto.