Ziyi Zhang Biography
Ziyi Zhang (Chinese: 章子怡, pinyin: Zhāng Zǐyí) is a Chinese film actress and singer. Zhang is considered one of the Four Young Dan actresses (四小花旦) in China, along with Zhao Wei, Xu Jinglei, and Zhou Xun.With a string of Chinese and international hits to her name, she has worked with renowned directors such as Zhang Yimou, Ang Lee, Wong Kar-Wai, Chen Kaige, Tsui Hark, Lou Ye, Seijun Suzuki, Feng Xiaogang and Rob Marshall.
Zhang was born and raised in Beijing, China, the daughter of Zhang Yuanxiao, an economist, and Li Zhousheng, a kindergarten teacher. Zhang joined the Beijing Dance Academy at the age of 11. When Zhang's parents suggested she attend the school, she was skeptical. While at this boarding school, she noticed how catty the other girls were while competing for status amongst the teachers. Zhang disliked the attitudes of peers and teachers, so much that, on one occasion, she ran away from the school.
Zhang entered China's prestigious Central Academy of Drama (regarded as the top acting college in China) at the age of 15.
At the age of 19, Zhang was offered her first role in Zhang Yimou's The Road Home, which won the Silver Bear award in the 2000 Berlin Film Festival.
Zhang further rose to fame due to her role as the headstrong Jen (Chinese version: Xia Long) in the phenomenally successful Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, for which she won several awards in the West, such as Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, Toronto Film Critics Association Awards and Independent Spirit Awards. Zhang's first appearance in an American movie was in Rush Hour 2, but because she didn't speak English at the time, Jackie Chan had to interpret everything the director said to her. In the movie, her character's name, "Hu Li," is translated from Mandarin Chinese to "Fox".
Zhang then appeared in Hero, with her early mentor Zhang Yimou, which was a huge success in the English-speaking world and nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe award. Her next film was the avant-garde drama Purple Butterfly by Lou Ye, which competed at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. Zhang went back to the martial arts genre with House of Flying Daggers (十面埋伏), which earned her a Best Actress nomination from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
In 2046, directed by Wong Kar-wai, starring many of the best-known Chinese actors and actresses, Zhang was the female lead and won the Hong Kong Film Critics' Best Actress Award and the Hong Kong Film Academy's Best Actress Award.
Showing her whimsical musical tap-dancing side, Zhang starred in Princess Raccoon, directed by Japanese legend Seijun Suzuki, who was honored at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.
In 2005, Zhang landed the lead role of Sayuri in the film adaptation of the international bestseller Memoirs of a Geisha. There was a slight controversy in Japan about a Chinese woman portraying a Japanese Geisha. For the film, she reunited with her 2046 co-star Gong Li and with her Crouching Tiger co-star Michelle Yeoh. For the role, Zhang received a 2006 Golden Globe Award nomination, a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination and a BAFTA nomination.
Zhang has also been known to sing, and was featured on the House of Flying Daggers soundtrack with her own musical rendition of the ancient Chinese poem, Jia Rén Qu (佳人曲, The Beauty Song). The song was also featured in two scenes in the film.
On June 27, 2005, it was announced that Zhang had accepted an invitation to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), placing her among the ranks of those able to vote on the Academy Awards.
In May 2006, Zhang became the youngest member to sit on the jury of the Cannes Film Festival. In the fall of 2006, Zhang played Empress Wan in The Banquet (Yè Yàn 夜宴), a film set in the Tang Dynasty.
Zhang provided the voice of Karai in the TMNT movie that was released on March 23, 2007. She later starred in Forever Enthralled (Mei Lanfang) (2008) and appeared in The Horsemen (2009) with Dennis Quaid.
Soon after Zhang's debut in Zhang Yimou's The Road Home, rumors arose regarding a possible affair between the actress and the older director. Zhang Yimou was previously involved in an extramarital affair with actress Gong Li, whom he similarly debuted and with whom Zhang Ziyi was quickly compared. However, a relationship between the two remains unconfirmed.
Hong Kong and Taiwanese media have often pushed at ties between Zhang and co-star Jackie Chan. This was fueled in part by photos that emerged of the pair during celebrations of Chan's birthday on the set of Rush Hour 2.
Zhang for a while was publicly linked with Fok Kai-shan, grandson of Hong Kong business tycoon Henry Fok.