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INT: Gong Li

02.05.2007

Gong Li has recently become fairly well known in America with MIAMI VICE and MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA. She also appeared in many critically acclaimed films such as RAISE THE RED LANTERN and the Wong Kar-Wai romantic science fiction drama 2046. Although her fame here is nothing like it is in China , her seductive performance opposite Gaspard Ulliel’s wonderfully creepy Hannibal Lecter in HANNIBAL RISING, she may be raised to a higher level here in the States. She gives power to her Lady Murasaki. Together, they give the film a real pulse and when the blood spills, they keep you involved.

I had the chance to meet with Gong Li and speak with her through her interpreter as she stopped by The Four Seasons in Beverly Hills . She a stunningly beautiful woman and I see the attraction that so many have. She had a very serious yet intriguing charm. She spoke of the public’s fascination with Hannibal Lecter and what it was like taking on an original role in an already developed franchise. She is lovely in person and just as lovely in the film. Her career seems to be blossoming in the States and I’m sure we will be seeing much more of her.

Gong Li

So have you seen the original SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, HANNIBAL and RED DRAGON?

Yes, I’ve seen them all.

Favorite?

I liked the first one, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS the most.

What was it about that movie that you liked?

I liked it because it was a real psychological horror film. It’s the kind of film that asked a lot of questions and made you want to know why he was the way he was, how come he did all those things, etc. And the two lead actors in it were just wonderful, so THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is quite different from a lot of other horror films where you just watch them and find out the end and forget about it after that. It made you want to know more about those things. And the script was really well written, the dialogue was quite amazing.

As far as this movie, do you think it was easier for you to develop this character because it wasn’t someone who was in the other movies; it was someone who you could create yourself?

Yes, because the character that I play in this film is a little bit mysterious. We don’t know very much about her, her childhood starting onward until when we see her. So there weren’t a lot of reference points therefore, actually, like you said, room for me to create something.

What kind of a back-story did you give her?

Well, in this case, when we were discussing the story as we were preparing the film, we were working directly with the writer because the novelist himself was writing the script. We were discussing things directly with him and so this character that is from Japan… her father was quite rich so she comes from a very wealthy family. When she’s young she goes to Europe, at quite an early age and [she] goes to school there and ends up staying. So she’s a woman who comes from a very high background, very wealthy background.

What was it like working with Gaspard [Ulliel] because it seems like you really did have a great relationship with him off-screen because it translated on-screen?

He’s a lot of fun to work with. He doesn’t like to talk a lot on the set or off the set, but he pays attention and he observes a lot of things. And he’s also quite friendly with everybody. You know, Europeans are quite interesting, they don’t speak very loudly and they like to speak in a very intimate way to each other so it made the atmosphere a lot of fun and very relaxed. And Gaspard himself, of course, is very young and he thinks young, he has a kind of child-like heart, sort of a child at heart, and so he’s a lot of fun to hang out with.

How did you prepare to play a Japanese character as a Chinese actress?

I didn’t go through any kind of special preparation with respect to the national background of this character. I think the starting point for me was that she was a woman, and women, whether they’re American, Japanese, Chinese, Korean or whatever, have a lot of similarities around the world. So I didn’t go and think, well I have to make sure that I act in a particularly Japanese sort of way, how I hold my body, the way I walk with small steps or very slowly or whatever. It was important for me to understand the whole background of the character and the experiences that she had gone through to build this performance.

This character has to see some pretty frightening things and even participate in some pretty frightening things. What frightens you?

Well, something I find very terrifying is war. It’s an awful thing and it’s the kind of thing where the person, the individual person ends up looking really, really small. Also the same with natural disasters; you know with war, you can think well maybe you can avoid it or if it starts happening you can sort of turn your back but then when it actually hits you, you can’t hide and you really become very, very small. And the same with natural disasters, these awful things that nobody can stop and the individual human beings become tiny just like grains of sand.

Why do you think that Hannibal Lecter has become such an iconic figure?

Well it comes originally from the novels, Hannibal Lecter, this character is a very human sort of profound figure and the emphasis of course is on this sort of dark or even evil side of human nature. And of course most people, probably everybody would normally kind of deny that they themselves have some kind of a mad side to them. Everybody thinks that, ‘everybody thinks that I’m a good person’. ‘If somebody does something bad to me, or why would somebody do something bad to me.’ People find it hard to admit that you to have some sort of dark side to you. So what I think appeals to people about this character is precisely that emphasis on the evil side, it shows that there is something else there. It’s written in this profound and memorable sort of way. It makes a deep impression on everybody.

Do you believe that because of your involvement in this film that it will be released in China?

No. I think highly unlikely. Whether it’s distributed or not in China has nothing to do with me. A film like this, if you start cutting things as you say, some of the violent scenes, the murder scenes; pretty soon you cut everything and there’s nothing left. So I think it’s going to be pretty difficult for this one to be released in China.

I’m curious, going back to the violence a little bit. Did that attract you or did that kind of make you nervous taking on this role, the violence in the film?

Well I knew from the beginning, in this commercial film, sort of this psychological thriller so I kind of knew in advance what it was going to be like. And of course when I saw the script and indeed there was a lot of violent things in there and so on. So I wasn’t especially worried about that part as I said I knew in advance it was going to be that kind of film and there are commercial reasons for that as well.

And actually, what’s important for me, what was important for me in considering this part was that I saw that for Lady Murasaki, that kind of violence was something she was actually going to try and stop throughout the film. It’s something that she’s trying to prevent; she doesn’t want Hannibal to do go ahead and do these vicious and cruel acts. She does try and stop him but of course in the end, nothing can stop him from committing all these brutal acts. But for me it was very important when I read the script initially, when I saw that this was my part that, in fact, she’s tried to stop these things. This was a very important consideration for me when I was deciding on taking on this role.

Can you talk about working with Peter Webber, the director?

Well he’s a very warm-heated person. When we started at the beginning, we were filming a scene where Lady Murasaki is crying bitterly. And at that point we did the scene and he said, ‘okay great, cut.’ And I was still crying of course, being in the role at that moment. And he just came straight over and started talking to me very nicely, trying to make me feel better so I would stop crying. And he was joking around about things unrelated, to sort of get my mind off it.

I was a little surprised because it seemed like such an abrupt shift for me, I hadn’t quite emerged from the mood of that scene yet so it was kind of a strange feeling for me. But from that I learned that he’s a very kind and gentle man and it’s quite surprising that he can make a film like this, which is filled with brutality and violence with war scenes, etc. So from this you can see that he’s quite a multi-dimensional person, a very talented director. He’s very good at dealing with actors and reassuring them, like I said in the scene where I’m supposed to cry and overcome with emotion, he will come help you get back to normal. You can see that he’s a very complex person; he’s a really good director.

Let me know what you think. Send questions or comments to jimmyo@joblo.com.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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