'Lust' star's film rehab ends abruptly
China’s brief rehabilitation of thesp Tang Wei — purged from the film industry for her erotic role in Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution” — seems to be over, after her part in propaganda epic “The Founding of a Party” was cut.It appears the actress has been edited out on the wishes of the family of the late Chairman Mao Zedong, the first leader of the People’s Republic of China. She played Mao’s early girlfriend, Tao Yi. Speculation is that the order came from Mao’s grandson, Mao Xinyu, who is a major-general in the People’s Liberation Army and a keen guardian of his grandfather’s legacy. Pic celebrates this year’s 90th anniversary of the Communist Party’s birth and is due to open on June 15. Tang was still in an edit of the film shown to biz figures in recent weeks, but sources who asked to remain anonymous told Variety that it looked pretty certain that Tang has since been dropped. Having cast her in the pic, the powerful China Film Group must have been keen for Tang to complete her rehabilitation. However, the families of historical figures have a lot of influence in China, and it is possible that Mao Yinyu believed having an actress with a steamy past associated with his grandfather could damage the Chairman’s reputation. China Film Group spokesperson Jiang Defu would not say whether the pic had been censored or not, saying only that several parts had been deleted in the final cut, but that nothing was sure until the pic was screened. Many were sceptical from the start when it was announced that Tang would take on the role. “The Founding of a Party” weighs in at a hefty 140 minutes and has 105 characters, although it is unclear how long it is now that Tang’s role has been excised. It deals with the three phases in the creation of the Communist Party, which still runs China as a single-party state. The role of the young Mao is played by heartthrob Liu Ye, and pic is part of the Communist Party’s efforts to present a modern image. It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Tang, who was purged in 2007 for her erotic role as the lover of a collaborator in Japanese-occupied Shanghai in “Lust, Caution.” China’s decision to allow “Lust, Caution” to screen, even with severe cuts, is one of the great mysteries in its murky censorship history. The ban on Tang was introduced as she was shooting a commercial for a cold cream, and the production was shut down. She has since become a Hong Kong resident. Her first film since “Lust, Caution” was last year’s Hong Kong-set romance “Crossing Hennessy” and she also features in Peter Chan Ho-sun’s $20 million actioner “Wu Xia.” “The Founding of a Party” is expected to make major waves at the Chinese box office after the huge success of “The Founding of a Republic,” an epic tribute to the 1949 revolution, which was the top performing local movie two years ago, taking in $61 million at the box office. China makes dozens of propaganda films every year. Most of them fail to make a ripple beyond China’s borders and are met with indifference even within the country. “The Founding of a Republic” transformed propaganda movies in that it was higher quality than the usual fare.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more