Tang shrugs off slurs

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 November, 2007, 12:00am

Mainland actress Tang Wei has made her name with her film debut in Ang Lee's Lust, Caution, but critics say her role as a seductress in an assassination plot has diminished Chinese women.

In the second world war drama, Tang, 28, plays Wong Chia-chi, a woman instructed to bed and assassinate Yee (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), a collaborator with the Japanese occupation forces. But instead, she falls in love with him.

People in some quarters have complained that the explicit sex scene featuring Tang (left) and Leung was included only to titillate western audiences and to improve the film's chances of winning foreign film awards. Some have even made hysterical claims that female actresses are no better than prostitutes, selling their bodies for fame and fortune.

Tang is unfazed by such carping. 'It's good to have some noise,' she said. 'It proves the film has raised certain issues for audiences to discuss. I think this is what people have been longing for - a film that's controversial enough to create some noise.'

Tang has also come under fire from the press, some of whom suggested that she had become too immersed in her role and that she had fallen in love with Leung after shooting the film. But she reacted calmly, saying only, 'Yes, Wong Chia-chi has fallen in love with Mr Yee.' It is said that Tang beat more than 10,000 actresses to win her role in the film, including Zhang Ziyi, who shot to fame after she appeared in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, also directed by Lee, in 2000.

Tang was reluctant to compare her acting career to Zhang's, but said: 'Lee told me I have only just passed through the gate of acting and shown I have potential. I think there's still a lot that I have to learn.'

The graduate of the Central Academy of Drama said she virtually lived with her character during the eight-month shoot. 'I didn't see acting as part of my duty - I grew with the character,' she said.

Tang said Lee was a demanding director and praised Leung's prowess as a great actor. 'Without the two of them, I would not have been able to carry off the role,' she said.

The Zhejiang-born actress has been tipped to win best actress at Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards, particularly since her main rival, Yu Nan, will not be competing.

But Tang's newfound fame has created headaches for her family, with the media digging into her personal life and her past.

'I feel sorry for my parents, friends and teachers because the media has intruded into their daily lives, and I would like to apologise to them,' Tang said.

Asked whether there are any Hong Kong actors she would like to work with, Tang said: 'It's the director's choice to select actors. As for me, I would be happy simply to land a good role.'