I was recently asked, “Who is your favorite character in SHANGHAI CALLING”? Rather than giving the safe, parental answer (“I love ALL of my children exactly the same!”), I replied honestly: my favorite character in the movie is the legal assistant “Fang Fang,” a role brought wonderfully to life by Chinese actress ZHU ZHU.
Zhu Zhu is known across China as the most popular veejay in the history of MTV China, a talented singer, and an internationally renown model. She’s not that famous in the U.S. yet, but that’s bound to change, especially after audiences see her in THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS and CLOUD ATLAS.
Zhu Zhu impressed me from our very first meeting. She’s completely fluent in English, studied engineering in college, and has traveled all over the world for work — in other words, she’s smart as well as sexy. The way she spoke about the script, I could tell that she understood exactly what I was trying to accomplish with the character.
But the thing I came to appreciate the most about Zhu Zhu was how much trust she placed in me as a director. SHANGHAI CALLING was her first lead movie role, so she listened eagerly to all of my suggestions and never complained about the grueling shooting schedule, even though it was particularly rough on her. Zhu Zhu had to shoot her most challenging scene on her first day of work — a tall order for any actor, made worse by the fact that we were shooting at night, inside of a cramped car, and it was raining like crazy.
Despite all this, Zhu Zhu tackled the scene like a pro, matching wits with DANIEL HENNEY take after take.
As the night wore on, though, I could see that she was getting tired, which made her dialogue lose some of its authenticity. So after seven takes of Zhu Zhu’s close-up, I announced that I had gotten what I needed and that we were moving on to Daniel Henney’s close-up. Zhu Zhu breathed a sigh of relief — she was now off camera, which meant she could stop worrying about her performance and focus on motivating Daniel’s reactions instead.
But I lied! The camera was still pointed right at Zhu Zhu. On the very next take Zhu Zhu delivered a completely refreshed performance that we wound up using in the final cut of the movie.
Although Zhu Zhu and I have spoken often since we wrapped SHANGHAI CALLING, I don’t think I’ve ever told her that I lied to her on that shot. Let’s see how long it takes for her to find out!
NEWS FLASH: Zhu Zhu will be in attendance at our upcoming festival dates in New York. Get your tickets before they sell out!actor, actress, casting, character, daniel henney, fang fang, favorite, zhu zhu