THE FILMMAKERS
Chen Kaige (Writer / Director & Producer)

Chen KaigeChen Kaige was born in Beijing in 1952. With both his parents prominent figures in the Chinese film community; his father, Chen Huaikai a veteran filmmaker, his mother, a scriptwriter and newspaper editor, Chen couldn't be more prepared for a career as a movie director. His childhood, however, was marred by the chaos of the Cultural Revolution which began in 1966, soon after he entered high school. Urban educational institutions throughout China were closed during this period and Chen, along with his fellow students, was sent into the countryside to 'learn from the peasants'.

For three years, Chen lived in a remote, impoverished corner of Yunan province until, finally to escape the hardships of rural life, he enlisted in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and served as a soldier and basketball player for four years. As a soldier, Chen had his first contact with Americans while serving in Laos. It was during this, his service in the PLA, that Chen learned the true meaning of war.

Upon completion of his service in 1975, Chen was assigned to work in a film development factory in Beijing, where his main responsibility was the air-conditioning. In the factory, Chen and his fellow workers grew tired of the endless propaganda of the Cultural Revolution and sought a better life. In an effort to express himself, Chen began writing during his stint as a factory worker.

In 1978, Chen passed the entrance examination to the Beijing Film Academy and was admitted to the directing department. There, he joined a fresh talented group of students, including Tian Zhuangzhuang (THE BLUE KITE) and Zhang Yimou (RAISE THE RED LANTERN, SHANGHAI TRIAD). The members of this exceptional class became the backbone of the 'new wave,' or 'fifth generation' of Chinese filmmakers. While still a student, Chen honed his professional skills by working as cameraman and assistant director on numerous television and film projects.

Upon his graduation in 1982, he was assigned to the Beijing Film Studio, but he opted instead to work at Guangxi Film Studios where he knew he could find a bit more independence. This decision paid off handsomely and led to the release in 1984 of Chen's groundbreaking work, YELLOW EARTH. This stunning film quickly aroused the interest of both audiences and critics worldwide, receiving numerous prizes including the Silver Leopard Award at the Locarno Film Festival and the award for Best Cinematographer at the Hawaii Film Festival. But, as would happen with many of Chen's later works, YELLOW EARTH was severely criticized by the Communist Party and promptly banned.

Chen continued his success with THE BIG PARADE (1985), which was awarded the special jury prize at the Montreal Film Festival. His third feature, THE KING OF THE CHILDREN (1987), was entered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. This highly evocative film, based on a story by Zhong Ancheng, embodies the artistic vision of the new breed of Chinese filmmakers and firmly established Chen as one of the most exciting directors working in today's cinema.

Chen Kaige as Lu BuweiIn 1987, he was awarded a fellowship by the Asian Cultural council and served as a visiting scholar at the New York University Film School. He also directed music videos. Three years later he returned to China to direct the first Chinese co-production (Japan-France-UK-Germany), LIFE ON A STRING (1991), which also was entered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. That same year Chen published his memoirs, "My Life and Times as a Red Guard."

In 1993, his fifth feature film, FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE (1993), was released to critical acclaim and shared the Palme d'Or at Cannes with Jane Campion's THE PIANO. The film received numerous accolades including the Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globe awards and an Oscar nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category. To make FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE, Chen assembled a crew comprised of the best talent from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. He also solicited the help of his father, who had made his reputation directing historical epics and operatic dramas.

His next film, the psychological drama TEMPTRESS MOON starring Gong Li, was lauded by the critics at Cannes, but once again his film was banned in China due to its erotic subject matter and political allegory.

Chen has recently completed THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN, his seventh feature. This film represents the largest budget of independently financed Chinese film to date. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May and will open in New York in December, 1999.

The following is a summary of Chen's major works and awards to date:

Yellow Earth, 1984
  • Best Picture, Hawaii Film Festival
  • Best Cinematographer, Hawaii Film Festival
  • Golden Rooster (best picture of the year award in China)
  • Best Cinematographer, 2nd Prize for Best Film, Lacarno Film Festival
  • Best Director, London Film Festival
Big Parade, 1985
  • Special Jury Prize, Montreal Film Festival
  • Best Picture, Nantes Festival
  • Best Picture, Torraini Festival
King of the Children, 1987
  • Selected for Competition, Cannes Film Festival
  • Golden Rooster
Life on a String, 1991
  • Selected for Competition, Cannes Film Festival
  • Best Picture, Singapore Film Festival
  • Best Picture, Instanbul Film Festival
Farewell My Concubine, 1993
  • Palme Díor, Cannes Film Festival
  • Best Foreign Film, Golden Globe
  • Oscar Nominee for Best Foreign Picture and Best Cinematographer
  • National Critics Award, NYC, Boston, Los Angeles
  • Best Foreign Language Film, Best Picture, Best Director, Japan Film Festival
  • Best Picture, London Film Festival
Temptress Moon, 1996 (US release April, 1997)
  • Selected for Competition, Cannes Film Festival
The Emperor and the Assassin, 1998-99
  • Special Technical Award, Cannes Film Festival

View more information on Chen Kaige at the Internet Movie Database.

 
WANG PEIGONG (Co-Scriptwriter)

A celebrated playwright, novelist, poet and scriptwriter, Wang Peigong was born in 1943 in the city of Wuhan. For 20 years, Wang worked for the People's Liberation Army, first as a writer then as head of the Air Force Drama Troupe, before gaining both national and international recognition for his 1985 play, "WM". Banned only after one performance, "WM" is now recognized as one of the most important and controversial works of drama written in the last two decades. Translated into more than five languages, "WM" has now been performed throughout Asia, Europe and America. The following year, 1986, Wang resigned from the army and joined forces with the Youth Arts Theater in Beijing. However, in 1989, Wang was arrested for his participation in the documentary movement of Tiananmen Square. Accused of 'inciting counter-revolutionary activities' and 'harboring criminals wanted by the State', he served nearly two years in jail. Since his release, Wang has continued writing screenplays; working on more than ten feature films and numerous television productions.

View more information on Wang Peigong at the Internet Movie Database.

 
ZHAO JIPING (Music Composer)

Born in Gansu province in 1945, Zhao is the son of the famous painter, Zhao Wangyun and brother of the internationally renowned violinist Zhao Zhenxiao. In 1961, Zhao enrolled in the Xian Conservatory of Music, where he studied composition for a total of nine years. After graduating, he worked as both a conductor and composer throughout China and is currently recognized as one of the foremost composers of traditional Chinese music. He has written scores for many 'new wave' Chinese films, including Zhang Yimou's RAISE THE RED LANTERN (1987), JU DOU (1990) and THE STORY OF QIU JU (1992). Zhao first worked with Chen Kaige in 1984, creating the score for Chen's film, YELLOW EARTH. Additionally, he's written the music for Chen's FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE (1993) and TEMPTRESS MOON (1996). In 1991, he was the recipient of the Best Music Award at France's Nantes International Film Festival for his work on FIVE GIRLS AND A ROPE.

View more information on Zhao Jiping at the Internet Movie Database.

 
TU JUHUA (Production Designer)

Born in Huzhou in 1940, Tu Juhua graduated from the Beijing Film Academy's Department of Design in 1964. He later began work at the Beijing Film Institute where he is currently the Senior Art Director. With credits on more than thirty films and countless television productions, Tu is now regarded as the country's leading and most respected production designer. He also received one of China's highest accolades when the State Council of the Chinese government officially recognized his contribution to the cinematic arts. Tu's work on THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN is the culmination of a thirty year career. In addition to designing all the film's interiors, he's also created the plans for the reconstruction of ancient China's majestic capital cities.

View more information on Tu Juhua at the Internet Movie Database.

 
MO XIAOMIN (Costume Designer)

Born in Sichuan province in 1964, Mo Xiaomin began studying Sichuan opera at the age of thirteen. For ten years, he worked as both an actor and set designer before enrolling in the prestigious Shanghai Drama Academy in 1987. After having studied operatic stage design under the tutelage of great masters like Wang Fushi, Mo furthered his education by attending university classes in ancient Chinese culture specifically: architecture, sculpture, calligraphy and the cultures and religions of China's ethnic minorities. Joining the Shanghai Opera House, he soon found himself an artist in productions, including many different forms of regional opera and four television films.

View more information on Mo Xiaomin at the Internet Movie Database.

 
ZHAO FEI (Cinematographer)

Zhao Fei was born in the city of Xian in 1961. He graduated from the department of cinematography of the Beijing Film Academy where he studied alongside Zhang Yimou. Throughout his career, Zhao has been a major force in Chinese cinema's 'new wave' movement. Evidence of his unique stylistic achievements can be found in Tian Zhuangzhuang's THE HORSE THIEF (1987) and LI LIANYING: THE IMPERIAL EUNUCH (1990), Huang Jianxin's SAMSARA (1988) and Zhang Yimou's RAISE THE RED LANTERN (1991). In 1992, Spain's Valladolid Film Festival, the American Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics' Circle and the LA Film Critics Association all honored Zhao with awards for best cinematography.

His other major works include Zhao Youchao's YELLOW SAND, GREEN GRASS, RED SUN and The Discovery Channel's THE FORBIDDEN CITY. After the completion of THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN in 1998, Zhao came to New York to work with Woody Allen's SWEET AND LOWDOWN. Finally, he has just completed shooting another film with Woody Allen.

View more information on Zhao Fei at the Internet Movie Database.

 

THE PRODUCERS
SATORU ISEKI (Producer)

Satoru Iseki is the CEO of Nippon Film Development and Finance Inc. NDF has been involved in the production of many critically acclaimed films including NAKED LUNCH, HOWARDS END and THE CRYING GAME. In 1995, Iseki served as executive producer of the cult-classic, SMOKE, the first project to be fully developed and produced by NDF.

Iseki's thirty-year career in cinema began in 1965 when he joined Nippon Herald films. In 1970, at the age of 27, he became the youngest chief publicist in the industry, handling blockbuster films like APOCALYPSE NOW, EMMANUELLE and THE GREAT HUNTING. In 1980, he became the director of the newly established Herald Ace Inc. and acted as associate producer on Nagisa Oshima's MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE and Akira Kurosaswa's RAN. During this time, he also organized the highly successful screening of the newly restored 1927 silent masterpiece, NAPOLEON, in Japan.

View more information on Satoru Iseki at the Internet Movie Database.

 
SHIRLEY KAO (Producer)

Shirley Kao was an established producer for Taiwanese television before creating the New Wave Company in 1986. Since then, Kao has been involved in the production and distribution of a great number of major films by Chinese (Taiwan and Mainland) directors in Japan. On two occasions she has been involved in film projects by the celebrated Taiwanese director, Hou Hsiao-hsien; 1998's CITY OF SADNESS and THE PUPPET MASTER in 1991. In 1990, she worked on the post-production of Zhang Yimou's RAISE THE RED LANTERN, a role she would repeat for his films TO LIVE (1993) and SHANGHAI TRIAD (1995). In addition, she has also worked in the capacity of post-production supervisor on He Ping's GREEN FIRECRACKER, RED FIRECRACKER (1993) and Li Shaohong's BLUSH (1995).

THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN is the third time she has worked with Chen Kaige, having previously been involved in Chen's TEMPTRESS MOON and FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE.

View more information on Shirley Kao at the Internet Movie Database.

 
PHILIP LEE (Associate Producer)

Philip Lee earned his BA in Film Directing from Nihon University in Japan. He received his MFA from the American Film Institute in 1995 and has been awarded its Mary Pickford Foundation Scholarship for Outstanding Producing. He has served as production manager on the Asian portions of many Hollywood films and television production projects including DRAGON - THE BRUCE LEE STORY, M. BUTTERFLY and AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS. Since graduating from AFI, Lee has co-founded Javelin Pictures, a motion picture development company. He will serve as associate producer on Ang Lee's upcoming feature CROUCHING TIGER.

View more information on Philip Lee at the Internet Movie Database.

 
SUNMIN PARK (Associate Producer)

Sunmin Park began her career as a journalist before gravitating into the field of international financing. She has recently produced Hirotaka Tashiro's MR. P'S DANCING SUSHI BAR which was shown at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. She is currently the President and CEO of Maxmedia and has recently been selected by Variety as one of the "Top 10 International Producers to Watch". Her directorial debut TOO PURE will open theatrically in Fall, 1999.

View more information on Sunmin Park at the Internet Movie Database.

 

THE CAST
GONG LI (Lady Zhao)

Gong Li as Lady ZhouBorn in 1965 in the northeastern province of Lianoning, Gong Li enrolled in the acting department of the prestigious Beijing Film Academy in 1985. A year before her graduation in 1989, she was offered the lead role in Zhang Yimou's landmark film, RED SORGHUM (1988), which went on to win the Golden Bear at the 1989 Berlin Film Festival. Since then, Gong Li's remarkable talent has propelled her to success beyond her homeland, making her an internationally renowned star and the leading face of Chinese cinema.

Following her breakthrough role in RED SORGHUM, Gong Li delivered brilliant performances in additional Zhang films, including OPERATION COUGAR (1989), JU DOU (1990), RAISE THE RED LANTERN (1991), THE STORY OF QIU JU (1992), TO LIVE (1994) and SHANGHAI TRIAD (1995).

Her remarkable versatility as an actress has been demonstrated by the wide range of roles she has played. She's captured audiences' hearts as a peasant, concubine, avant-garde artist and chanteuse to name but a few. Over the last decade, she has also starred in Li Han-hsiang's THE EMPRESS DOWAGER (1989), Ching Siu-tung's A TERRACOTTA WARRIOR (1990), Sylvia Chang's MARY FROM BEIJING (1992), Huang Shujin's PAINTED SOUL (1994) and Wayne Wang's CHINESE BOX (1997).

Gong Li has been the recipient of numerous awards throughout her impressive career. In 1992, she received the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival for her astonishing performance in THE STORY OF QIU JU. In 1993, she was voted best supporting actress by the New York Film Critics Circle for her role in Chen Kaige's FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE. In 1997, she served as a juror at the Cannes Film Festival. Voted one of the world's 'fifty most beautiful people' in 1992, Gong Li is currently a spokesperson for L'Oreal.

THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN is her third collaboration with director Chen Kaige, having previously appeared in his FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE and TEMPTRESS MOON.

View more information on Gong Li at the Internet Movie Database.

 
ZHANG FENGYI (Jing Ke)

Zhang Fengyi as Jing KeZhang was born in Beijing in 1956. He enrolled in the acting department of the Beijing Film Academy around the same time as many of China's 'fifth generation' film directors. While still a student, the veteran director, Ling Zifeng selected him to star in the adaptation of the classic Lao She novel, RICKSHAW BOY (1981). A box office sensation, the film also did remarkably well in China's Film awards, making Zhang a household name. He followed this auspicious debut with MEMORIES OF OLD BEIJING (1982). Directed by Wu Yigong, the picture was selected Best Film at the Manila film Festival. Continuing a successful career, Zhang has appeared in more than twenty films, including Yu Yanfu's ADVENTURES OF A PIGEON FANCIER (1986), Huang Jianzhong's POLICE OFFICER (1990), Zhou Xiaowen's YOUTH WITHOUT REGRET (1992) and He Ping's SUN VALLEY. He has also performed opposite Joan Chen in TEMPTATION OF A MONK, the cult classic by Hong Kong director, Clara Law. THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN is Zhang's second feature film with Chen Kaige. In 1993, he played the Beijing Opera idol, Duan Xiaolou, in Chen's award-winning FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE.

View more information on Zhang Fengyi at the Internet Movie Database.

 
LI XUEJIAN (Ying Zheng)

Li Xuejian as Emporer Ying ZhengLi was born in Heze, Shandong province in 1954. Graduating from secondary school in 1970 at the height of the Cultural Revolution, Li spent the next three years working in a factory before enlisting in The People's Liberation Army. His first acting role came in 1976 when he appeared as an extra in a performance staged by the Yunnan PLA Arts Academy. This modest debut eventually led to his acceptance into the Drama Unit of the Air Force Politics Department and a distinguished acting career=2E

Li's breakthrough role came in 1981 when he delivered an award-winning performance in the television drama THE SEPTEMBER 13 INCIDENT, playing Lin Biao, the appointed successor to Chairman Mao who fell from grace during the Cultural Revolution. His film debut came in the same year as Li on the lead role in the film JOURNEY TO TIANSHAN. He quickly became one of the most recognizable faces in Chinese cinema by appearing in films like GENERAL GANG (1985), THE GREAT DETECTIVE (1987) and Li Shaohong's FAMILY PORTRAIT (1992). He was also seen in the highly acclaimed television drama ASPIRATION. Named one of the ten most popular actors in china by the magazine "Cinematic Arts in 1993, Li gained international fame for his roles in Tian Zhuangzhuang's masterpiece, THE BLUE KITE (1993) and Zhang Yimou's SHANGHAI TRIAD (1995).

View more information on Li Xuejian at the Internet Movie Database.