×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Tang Wei: Crossover Star Enchants Two Nations

When director Ang Lee first cast an unknown actress as the lead in his Chinese spy drama “Lust, Caution,” there were more than a few raised eyebrows. Tang Wei, a directing graduate from the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing, was not only unheard of, she was hardly the femme fatale the role called for.

“We were really quite surprised. She wasn’t really outwardly sexy or coquettish and the role required her to be, because she had to seduce (Tony Leung),” recalls Matthew Tang, a producer who used to work at Edko Films (which produced “Lust, Caution”) and now has his own production company, Movie Addict Prods.

“It takes people some time to warm to her, and vice versa, but she has an inner quality that seeps out as you get to know her and encourages a rapport,” Tang adds, remembering her as rather introverted, “although not unfriendly,” preferring to keep to herself between scenes.

Her muted, controlled performance as Wang Jiazhi that gave way to bursts of explosive passion showed her range as an actress. But, perhaps unfairly to her, more was made of her sex scenes with Leung than her acting. Those caused the Chinese government to blacklist her indefinitely, effectively extinguishing her rising star.

By all accounts, she’s cut from a slightly different cloth than many of her compatriots in the business, who see socializing with the right people as a way up the career ladder.

She’s found success again, however. South Korean production “Late Autumn,” directed by Kim Tae-yong (who, incidentally, became her husband in July), found favor with audiences in both South Korea and China.

“She was already popular in South Korea because of ‘Lust, Caution.’ But her looks and personality made Koreans like her more during the promotion for the film,” says producer Oh Jung-wan of Bom Film Prods. in South Korea. “Her performance also made people realize she was not just a star, but a real actress as well,”

People who have worked with Tang have often attributed her audience rapport not just to her looks but also to her versatility with languages. “Late Autumn” required the actress to speak mainly in English, a language she polished in London while sitting out her exile by the Chinese government.

“She meets all the requirements of classic beauty, of course: she is tall, elegant and very oriental.” says director Ann Hui, who worked with Tang on the biographical drama “Golden Era,” Hong Kong’s official submission in the foreign-language film category at the 2014 Academy Awards.

Matthew Tang, who also worked with the thesp on her Chinese-language hit “Finding Mr. Right” (2013), also credits the actress for being able to immerse herself in different cultures. “With Cantonese, she uses the right nuances, the right slang and it is almost impossible to tell she isn’t really from Hong Kong.” he adds.

Although the actress says she still needs to work on her Korean, she was a runaway hit when she became the first foreign star to host the Busan Intl. Film Festival two years ago (2012).

With her marriage to Kim, there are certainly expectations that she will be making more appearances in South Korean productions.

Bom’s Oh adds: “She will now be even more highly accepted as a Korean star because of her marriage.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Jon Voight'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' film

    President Trump to Award Jon Voight the National Medal of Arts

    President Trump will present actor Jon Voight, musician Allison Krauss, and mystery writer James Patterson with the national medal of arts. Voight is one of few in Hollywood who has been vocal about his support of President Trump in the past, calling him “the greatest president of this century.” The White House announced four recipients [...]

  • Zack Snyder arrives at the 2018

    'Justice League': Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Zack Snyder Support Release of 'Snyder Cut'

    Zack Snyder, Gal Gadot, and Ben Affleck have taken to social media to request that Warner Bros. release the Snyder cut of “Justice League.” Snyder, who helmed “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman” and was “Justice League’s” original director, had to leave production on the film partway through after his daughter died, with Joss [...]

  • Whose Side Is 'Marriage Story' On?

    Whose Side Is 'Marriage Story' On? (Column)

    Do we choose sides when we watch “Marriage Story,” Noah Baumbach’s brilliant and wrenching drama of divorce? The question, on the face of it, sounds facile in a dozen ways the movie isn’t. Rarely are there winners in divorce, and there are two sides to every breakup. “Marriage Story” is a movie that reflects that [...]

  • The Letter

    IDFA: Kenyan Documentary ‘The Letter’ Debuts Trailer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given access to the trailer for Kenyan documentary “The Letter,” by producer-director duo Christopher King and Maia Lekow, which world premieres Nov. 23 at IDFA. The film follows a young man who travels to his grandmother’s rural home when he learns she’s been accused of witchcraft. He soon discovers that the threatening letter she [...]

  • Warner Bros. Box Office

    With 'Good Liar' and 'Doctor Sleep,' Warner Bros.' Box Office Misfortunes Mount

    When Warner Bros. was crafting its 2019 slate, the studio took pains to offer more than just superhero movies. To be sure, there were lots of masked vigilantes too, but more than any of its big studio brethren, Warner Bros. was willing to take a risk on the kinds of thrillers, adult dramas, coming-of-age stories, [...]

  • Constance Wu

    Will Constance Wu Ever Watch 'Hustlers'?

    Despite her leading role, Constance Wu has never seen “Hustlers” and, spoiler alert, it’s very unlikely that she will. Wu explained why she doesn’t want to watch the film to Mindy Kaling (“Late Night”) during a conversation for “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors.” “This is crazy,” Kaling said in the beginning of the interview. “I [...]

  • Ford v Ferrari

    'Ford v Ferrari' Outmatches 'Charlie's Angels' at International Box Office

    Disney and 20th Century Fox’s “Ford v Ferrari” sped ahead of fellow new release, Sony’s “Charlie’s Angels,” at the international box office. Director James Mangold’s racing drama collected $21.4 million from 41 foreign markets, representing 67% of its overseas rollout. “Ford v Ferrari” also kicked off with $31 million in North America, bringing its global [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content