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December 20, 2009

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Thriller extends Zhang's comedy acting 'creds'

THE comedy thriller "The First Gun" not only shows director Zhang Yimou's departure from his earlier art-house works and martial arts epics, but is also a brand-new challenge for Yan Ni, one of China's hottest comedy actresses.

Born in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, in 1971, Yan's acting career started in 1992.

But for a long time she was an unknown actress. It was not until the screening of the popular TV sitcom "My Own Swordsman" in 2006 that Yan rose to overnight fame.

Yan plays a funny, but romantic owner of a tavern in the 80-episode TV series, which has developed a solid fan base of white-collars for its hilarious script and unique style.

In Zhang's film, a remake of the Coen brothers' 1985 crime thriller "Blood Simple," Yan was asked to play a cheating wife who had a secret lover.

Her husband, a noodle store owner, hires a killer to murder her and her lover, played by comedy star Xiao Shenyang.

Yan wears a grass-green costume patterned with yellow and rosy flowers in the film.

But when the star attended the film's Shanghai press conference and the shooting for a special Christmas Eve episode of local TV dance show "Let's Shake It," she looked gorgeous and impressed audiences with her elegance and fashionable sexy dresses.

The star said during a recent interview that it was a new journey and a fresh page in her career to collaborate with Zhang, one of the country's most acclaimed film makers, and the film had a special meaning for her.

Q: Director Zhang's films have brought fame and success to their female stars, such as Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi. As the new leading lady in Zhang's movies, how does your own character compare with your predecessors?

A: I am the eldest one. And I am not as brilliant and charming as them. I need to be much more devoted to the portrayal of the role to pay back his trust.

Amazingly, this interesting and rewarding shooting experience has also lifted my taste in fashion. Now I can pick out the most beautiful clothing from the wardrobe.

Q: Your vivid performance is considered a highlight of the film. What's the difference between your character in the film and your former roles?

A: I have never depicted a woman with such a complicated personality. She has an ambivalent attitude toward her marriage and secret lover.

But she has such a strong heart which firmly supports her pursuit of true love. However, the challenge is that I needed to depict her madness of love, her crying and hysteria in a black-humored way.

Q: What do you think of your cooperation with director Zhang and comedy star Xiao Shenyang in the film? What kind of people are they in your eyes?

A: I think Zhang is one of the best film makers in China. He has amazing cinematography talents and good patience with all the actors.

But what I admire most about him is his passion for film making even at his age. He never stops his new attempts and exploration of different film genres. He is a modest man with a big heart.

Xiao Shenyang, like many other Errenzhuan (a popular regional performing art in northeast China) performers, is a typical grassroots idol.

His performance is honest and open, which reflects the vibrancy and diversity of Chinese folk cultures. We were very happy working together. I have also learned some comic acting skills from him.

Q: There are few noted comedy actresses in China nowadays. Is it possible for you to become China's comedy queen?

A: Frankly speaking, I didn't see my potential for comedy apart from "My Own Swordsman." Comedy is difficult to master partly because the feedback from the audience is instant and not that guaranteed.

Different people have different criteria for comedy and the comedians' performance. So it is always a great honor to me if I am known as an excellent comedian.

Q: Does fame dramatically change your life? What are your dreams?

A: For me fame was an unexpected thing, though it used to be my dream and goal when I embarked on acting in the 1990s. To many people, fame is a two-edged sword that may also ruin their lives.

Fortunately, my life hasn't had such abrupt changes. The good things are that now I have a more stable income and many opportunities to find good scripts.

I am satisfied with everything I have achieved, particularly my 10-year-old daughter. My current dream is to be the most beautiful woman in her eyes.

Q: What's next after "The First Gun?"

A: Acting is always where my interests lie. Next year, two of my new TV series will be aired, the comedy "Zhang Xiaowu's Spring" and the police drama "No Way Back." I'm also reading several film scripts. I will choose one of them as my next film production.


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