The reel Mao

Updated: 2011-06-03 11:10

By Liu Wei (China Daily European Weekly)

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The reel Mao
Liu has long been aware of his likeness to Mao Zedong; his friends call him "chairman" Photos provided to China Daily 

A young actor will play a 20-something Mao Zedong in a new film breaking the stereotyped image of the Great Helmsman

Heartthrob Liu Ye, 33, will play Chairman Mao Zedong in the upcoming movie, The Founding of a Party, a tribute to the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party of China. The movie, to be released on June 15, has been in the spotlight ever since its filming began in August 2010 and directors Han Sanping and Huang Jianxin have boldly cast young idols, such as Liu, Chen Kun and Chang Chen, to play Mao, Zhou Enlai and Chiang Kai-shek.

With a budget of more than 70 million yuan (7.4 million euros), the film features a stellar cast of at least 100.

But in China, playing Mao is not simply about acting skills.

In 2010, 53-year-old actor Zhang Tielin found himself in the hot seat when people found he had taken British citizenship at the time he was scheduled to play Mao in a forthcoming TV drama.

Some of his Internet attackers said it was not appropriate for someone who had given up his Chinese citizenship to play the founder of the republic.

In the 1970s, anyone playing Mao had to be politically correct and submit to family background checks.

While such checks are no longer required, the actor must still not be tainted by scandals or have played such roles as that of a traitor.

Liu knows the job at hand is a tough one.

"When I was 5 I had a serious discussion with my sister about whether Mao used the restroom, like the rest of us," he says. "He is held in such esteem that many people cannot form an objective opinion of him."

But the optimistic young man wants to give it a try.

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