|As Empress Wan in Legend of the Black Scorpion|
Today marks the 33rd birthday of Chinese actress Ziyi Zhang. Born in Beijing in 1979, she began studying dance when she was eight years old. In 1996, when she was seventeen, she began studying at the prestigious Central Drama College in Beijing. Her first noteworthy role was as Zhao Di, the young woman who's determined to marry the new teacher who comes to her village in Zhang Yimou's The Road Home (1999).
Her career skyrocketed with Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon the following year. Her dance training served her well in that film's many martial arts sequences, and she at least held her own opposite veteran costars Chow Yun-fat and Michelle Yeoh.
She's also worked with director Tsui Hark in The Legend of Zu (2001), his unfortunately inferior remake of his own Zu: Warriors of the Magic Mountain; Wong Kar-wei in 2046; Seijin Suzuki in his Princess Racoon (2005), and Robert Marshall in Memoirs of a Geisha (2005). She also re-teamed with Zhang Yimou for Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004).
Multi-talented and beautiful, her career to date has been phenomenal. Recently, she showed her comedic chops in director Eva Jin's delightful Sophie's Revenge (2009). For my review of the film, which screened at the 2010 New York Asian Film Festival, click here.
So, heartfelt "Happy Birthday" wishes to you, Ziyi Zhang. Your fans in the U.S. surely wish you health, happiness, a continued, long and lustrous career, and to see you again soon doing what you do so well - lighting up our theaters, our widescreeen TVs, and our hearts.
A Brief Post-Script About Names:
Early in her career, her name appeared in English as Zhang Ziyi, using the traditional Chinese order of family name first, personal name last. This was how she was billed through House of Flying Daggers (2004). My guess is that she got fed up with being mistakenly addressed or referred to as "Ms. Ziyi" and that's why her name started appearing in credits in Western order. She'll probably always be "Zhang Ziyi" to me, but here I use "Ziyi Zhang" in difference to her apparent preference and to avoid further confusion. On the other hand, I use Zhang Yimou - the noted director and Ziyi's one-time mentor - because that's how his name typically appears in English.