“I asked one of the awestruck fans who she was. “Fan Bingbing is the biggest star in China,” came the reply. “Only Americans don’t know her name.” For the rest of the festival, I became obsessed by Fan’s (Bingbing is her given name) appearances. As a face of L’Oréal Paris and the star of dozens of Chinese films, Fan, 32, was everywhere: She seemed to change ensembles at least six times a day, gathering an enthralled throng at each of her exits. Whether she wore a pastel floral Valentino with a bow at the waist or a strapless gown designed by Christopher Bu that was inspired by a Qing-dynasty vase, Fan was an endless source of fashion fascination.
A year later almost to the day, I was waiting to interview Fan in her suite on the second floor of the Martinez. Much had changed. In 2012, Chinese audiences emerged as one of the primary targets for the American movie business. With box office sales far from robust in the United States, foreign income has become crucial to Hollywood’s financial health.
Currently, China is the No. 2 market worldwide for film (after America), and analysts predict that by 2020 it will be No. 1. There are more than 13,000 movie screens in China, and, in 2012, an average of 10.5 new theaters were built every day. Although the Chinese are interested in American movies—2012’s Cloud Atlas, which bombed in the States, was a hit in China, as was Life of Pi—they are partial to homegrown productions. Though criticized for its blatant product placement, a 2013 Chinese movie called Tiny Times 1.0, which depicts the decadent adventures of four Shanghai girls, grossed more than $43 million the week it came out in China. The film quickly generated a sequel and topped Man of Steel, the newest incarnation of Hollywood’s Superman series, which was purported to be a sure triumph in the Chinese market.
And more and more, Chinese audiences want to watch their own stars. Zhang Ziyi and Li Bingbing are Fan’s main rivals. The actresses are fiercely competitive: It is common knowledge in Cannes, for instance, that it is not correct to invite Fan and Zhang to the same parties. If you do, they are sure to find out—and neither will show up. Through her starring roles with directors like the brilliant Wong Kar-wai and the Academy Award winner Ang Lee, Zhang has become better known worldwide than Fan, but Fan is more popular back home. I was told by a fashion executive who dresses both women that Fan’s features are considered by the Chinese to have perfect proportions, while Zhang’s exquisite face is deemed less Chinese and more appealing to Western eyes.
Read more at W.
Isn’t it ridiculous and sad to know that a success of an actress isn’t based on her acting skill but her asian features?