Petal power the way to win Gong Li's heart

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 October, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 October, 1997, 12:00am

What do you have to do to persuade Gong Li to do something? After all, she reputedly turned down a role in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies as well as the opportunity to star opposite Brad Pitt in Seven Years in Tibet - two roles most actresses would have died for.

So when Jane Hsiang, international editor-at-large of Elle magazine, wanted her to pose for the cover of the 10th-anniversary issue, she knew she had an exceptionally difficult task on her hands.

However, all it took to convince Gong Li was lots of hard work, patience, good timing and - most importantly - six-dozen long-stemmed roses.

While Gong Li was in Beijing filming The Assassins with director Chen Kaige, Jane and her crew - a photographer, his assistant, a writer, hair stylist, make-up artist and two other assistants - flew up to try to persuade the actress to pose for the cover.

Her filming schedule was so hectic and at such irregular hours the actress could not make any promises.

The whole Elle team waited three days and nights but to no avail. Determined to get her cover photo, Jane knew what she had to do.

Seventy-two roses were dispatched to Gong Li's room and at 5 am the next morning, Jane got the call she was waiting for - Gong Li had just finished filming for the day and had a few minutes to spare.

She showed up at Jane's hotel room which had been hurriedly converted into a makeshift studio and, as Jane explained, was totally professional: 'It was amazing - she had just got off the set after filming for 16 hours and was freshly showered but looked tired.

'However, the moment she got in front of the camera, she just lit up.' But what did Jane expect from the actress? 'Everyone told me she was 'difficult' so I was scared - but she turned out to be wonderful. She is so professional that she respects other people's professionalism,' Jane said.

'I now understand why she is a star - there are others with talent and looks but don't make it because they are not as determined as she. Gong Li will accomplish what she sets out to.'