×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Fan Bingbing Disappearance: Questions Hang Over Chinese Actress and Her Projects

Since Fan Bingbing disappeared from public view in July, rumors have swirled that China’s most prominent actress is no longer at liberty – either in prison or under house arrest as a result of a scandal over celebrity salaries and alleged tax evasion.

Neither her representatives nor the Chinese authorities are commenting on Fan’s unusual absence. But the questions that hang over her fate are beginning to cast a cloud over the projects she is involved in, including high-profile all-female action movie “355” and the luxury brands that clamored to hire her as a spokeswoman.

355,” produced by Jessica Chastain, was the top-selling project at Cannes this year. (Fan and Chastain have been friends since they worked together on the Cannes jury in 2017.) Sources close to the production tell Variety that there is no need to rethink yet as the movie is not scheduled to shoot until mid-2019. But whether “355” can go ahead without Fan is unclear. She is not an investor, but the exit of the film’s major Chinese star could lead to the loss of the film’s $20 million pre-sale to Huayi Bros.

Among Fan’s previous credits are “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Iron Man 3” and “I Am Not Madame Bovary.”

Fan has also been the public face of such brands as Montblanc, Louis Vuitton, De Beers, and fashion house Guerlain. So far, only Montblanc is reported to have severed its connections with Fan, but she has been conspicuously absent from the other campaigns. Guilt by association is particularly worrisome in China, where government displeasure can quickly doom a person’s or a company’s prospects.

Fan appears to have drawn greater official scrutiny after leaked documents seemed to show that she made use of “yin-yang” contracts, in which double contracts are issued for the same work, but only the lower-value one is declared to tax authorities. Fan has denied the allegations, but she has not been seen in public since a July 1 visit to a children’s hospital, and her social media accounts have been silent.

China’s tax administration has ordered an investigation into the use of yin-yang contracts. The Communist government has a history of taking down prominent public figures as a warning to other high fliers and the general public. In 2002, actress Liu Xiaoqing was jailed for a year for tax evasion.

As for which government agency might be investigating and even detaining Fan, speculation has ranged widely. Besides tax authorities, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange could be interested in her. Other wealthy celebrities in recent years have been accused of foreign-exchange violations as they moved some of their money abroad.

Or Fan could have been forced out of sight by the State Administration of Press Publishing Radio Film and Television, which oversees the entertainment industry, in an escalation of its crackdown on celebrity misconduct. Earlier this year, the agency was brought under the direct control of the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department.

Other possibilities are authorities in Jiangsu province, home to Wuxi Studios, and Xinjiang province, where Khorgos, a city not far from the border with Kazakhstan, has become the headquarters of several movie companies, on paper at least. Both places offer significantly lower tax rates than the top rate of 45% salary tax. Fan, who has an estimated annual earning power of between $30 million and $40 million, is believed to have a Khorgos-registered outfit.

Representatives at Fan’s Studio, Fan’s management company, and at CAA in Los Angeles have declined to comment on the star’s status and whereabouts.

The entertainment industry has mounted its own response to the scandal and the specter of a government crackdown. Since Fan dropped from view, TV shows have capped their payments to celebrities, and leading production companies have signed an industry pact setting ceilings on appearance fees and on the proportion of a series’ budget that can go to top cast.

The shares of many major Chinese entertainment firms have sunk in value in recent weeks. Some, such as Huayi Bros., which is down 36% since June 1, have fallen as a direct result of connections to the tax-evasion scandal. Others have tumbled from fear of contagion and concerns that the sector may be further probed and regulated.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • She Monkeys

    LevelK Boards International Sales on Lisa Aschan's 'Call Mom!' (EXCLUSIVE)

    LevelK has acquired international sales rights to Lisa Aschan’s new film “Call Mom!”, a sequel to her well-received feature debut, “She Monkeys.” Produced by Anna-Maria Kantarius (“Amateurs”) at Garagefilm Intl., “Call Mom!” follows Niki, a 35-year-old who lives like she’s 25 and is forced to come to grips with all of her relationships and past [...]

  • The Spokeswoman

    Mexico’s Luciana Kaplan on Indigenous Candidate Doc ‘The Spokeswoman’

    In 2017, Luciana Kaplan’s globe-spanning documentary feature “Rush Hour” was selected as the best in competition at that year’s Morelia Intl. Film Festival – only one of many such plaudits for the film – and the director returned to the festival Impulso section for pix-in-post with her next latest, “The Spokeswoman,” taking three of the [...]

  • Ella Balinska, Kristen Stewart and Naomi

    China Box Office: 'Charlie's Angels' Kept Earthbound by Local Romcom

    The new “Charlie’s Angels” reboot was no match for a local romantic comedy or a 20-year-old Giuseppe Tornatore film at the Chinese box office, bringing in just $7.6 million in its debut weekend, according to figures from consultancy Artisan Gateway. Directed by Elizabeth Banks and starring Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska, the film [...]

  • Climbing Blind

    ‘Climbing Blind’ Snares Kendal Mountain Festival Grand Prize

    KENDAL    “Climbing Blind,” from Alastair Lee, took the Grand Prize at the 2019 Kendal Mountain Festival on Saturday. Detailing the ascent of a vertical rock pillar, the film revealed how a blind mountaineer led the climb, assisted only by a sight-partner a rope length below. The film had particular significance for a British audience, [...]

  • 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 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content