'Crazy dame' makes Chinese film

Updated: 2013-09-17 07:26

By Liu Wei (China Daily)

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American director Dennie Gordon has done something so unusual that her 24-year-old son calls her a "crazy dame".

The 50-year-old is the first female director from the United States to make a Chinese-language film. She has teamed up with Zhang Ziyi, star of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, to make My Lucky Star, a romantic-comedy set to premiere in China on Sept 17.

Gordon directed episodes of TV comedies 30 Rock and The Office and feature films including What a Girl Wants and Joe Dirt before meeting Song Ge, a producer of Zhang's 2009 film, Sophie's Revenge.

They talked about making a film in China, the fastest-growing film market in the world. Zhang joined the project later.

"My son is also a filmmaker and he said to me, you are one crazy dame," she laughs.

"But I love crazy challenges and everybody wants to know what the Chinese market is really like. There is this huge audience here and at the same time, it is so unpredictable and incredibly powerful."

The film follows Sophie, an audacious Beijing girl, as she travels to Hong Kong, Macao and Singapore, where she becomes involved in a weapons deal and romance with a handsome government agent played by Taiwan singer Leehom Wang.

The script was written in English and translated into Chinese, with two Chinese writers and Gordon and Zhang in cooperation.

Gordon is confident the film will resonate with young Chinese women, her target audience.

"China is in exciting development stage and women are much freer to make their own choices," she says.

"The message of Sophie's journey is, don't just live inside your head, go and take the risk. You can go to Singapore alone, you can meet the man of your dreams and you can have an adventure. I want all Chinese women to feel free to do that."

The film was shot in Chinese, while Gordon worked with an assistant who helped her with language. But she does not think language was a real barrier on set. "In many ways drama and romance are international languages," she says. "I was really able to tell, 'Do I believe this moment? Is there something in this moment that makes my heart tug?' I knew what they were saying at every instant because I developed the script."

Gordon plans to make more Chinese projects in the booming market, where she says she has an unusual amount of creative freedom.

"I had more creative support in this movie than I have ever had with any movie in Hollywood," she says. "In the US, there were tremendous layers of interference in the story development, the casting, the location, the money, and so on, but nobody here said to me I cannot do something. 'You want to go to Singapore? OK. You want to jump over a 57-story building? OK.'"

Producer and female lead Zhang Ziyi gave Gordon tremendous support.

"Very few directors in the US get final cut, I have final cut here. Actually Ziyi has final cut, but she happens to love my edition.

"I feel like a queen here, in the US I was just a factory girl, a worker bee," she jokes.

Gordon says the reason Zhang loves the story so much is that the character she plays is so different from her stereotyped image.

Gordon says one day when they were on the roof of the Marina Bay Sands, the luxury hotel in Singapore, looking at the playback, Zhang said: "In my whole career I never dreamed I could be in such a movie. I always wanted to be in a movie that would star Anne Hathaway and Julia Roberts, I just never had the chance."

"I think she means a movie that is sort of a madcap adventure," Gordon explains. "We sent her off on a James Bond adventure."

Starting her acting career in 1999 in a Zhang Yimou film, Zhang has been known to her audience as a smart, tough lady. Gordon thinks the role of Sophie brings out the little girl inside her.

"I have seen her with her little niece, daughter of her brother, you will know Sophie is part of her inside," says Gordon.

Gordon's next Chinese project is the remake of Go Lala Go, a hit film from 2010 about a young career woman's life and love.


 'Crazy dame' makes Chinese film

A scene from My Lucky Star, a Chinese-language film made by American director Dennie Gordon. Provided to China Daily

(China Daily 09/17/2013 page18)