Disgraced Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing has spent the past two years off the radar following an explosive 2018 tax evasion scandal. But she is expected to reemerge soon in a period drama on Chinese streamer Youku.
The $70 million-budgeted TV series “Win the World” is one of the most expensive TV series ever to be made in China, according to the South China Morning Post — yet that didn’t stop it from almost never seeing the light of day when its two main actors fell foul of the law. China takes cancel culture to the next level by often permanently shelving projects affiliated with scandal-plagued stars, no matter what the investment.
“Win the World” was supposed to have debuted in 2018, but was put on hold indefinitely after Fan was found guilty of tax fraud and hit with an order to pay more than $100 million in fines and back taxes. Its upcoming release is even more surprising because it also stars Gao Yunxiang, another Chinese celebrity to have fallen from grace after he was arrested in Sydney on accusations of sexual assault.
In March, Australian courts acquitted him of five counts of sexual assault and two counts of indecent assault after legal proceedings that dragged on for nearly two years.
Produced by Talent TV and Film, “Win the World” is a lavish historical costume drama set in the Qin dynasty. Gao plays Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of a unified China, and Fan a widowed woman in his orbit.
At one point, the production firm even floated the idea of digitally editing out Gao entirely, and replacing him with Fan’s significant other at the time, actor Li Chen. Other films and shows featuring Fan have been iced or have not yet announced plans for release, including director Feng Xiaogang’s “Cell Phone 2.”
The South China Morning Post cited Chinese reports as saying that neither disgraced thespian will be edited out in the Youku series, although the show will be cut down from 76 episodes to around 60.
The star has kept an extremely low profile over the past year, but has in recent months has begun appearing on the covers of a smattering of less prominent international lifestyle and fashion magazines like Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam and the New York Times Style Magazine Singapore, at times offering a few fluffy, milquetoast comments to accompany the images. The appearances seem to be paving a way for her comeback by focusing only on the high fashion side of her image, and seeking to put the past behind her one teased updo at a time.