Hollywood East

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 April, 2008, 12:00am

You can throw out all those old stereotypes about Chinese women being quiet, demure wallflowers. Those days are gone.

Now, more and more Hong Kong and mainland female stars are behaving very unexpectedly. To be precise, the actresses of today have become surprisingly outspoken, perhaps overconfident and downright ambitious.

At times, I think some of them have gone, well, crazy.

I'm not referring to the insanity of the women who let themselves be photographed in the Edison Chen Koon-hei scandal - which certainly confirmed once and for all that quite a few of the gals in this town's entertainment industry aren't so innocent and shy - or the Bai Ling sort of wackiness of constantly overexposing herself and then getting charged for stealing two magazines and some batteries at the airport.

The kind of craziness I'm referring to is more from being so liberated and empowered by their success that they'll try to do exactly what they want, no matter how outlandish it may seem. You might say it's girl power gone wild.

Love her or hate her, Zhang Ziyi is a major player here and in Hollywood. She might be derided by some as a calculating diva but you can't deny that she is now the biggest acting name from China. If recent reports are correct, her power play is just beginning.

Rupert Murdoch's wife, Wendy Deng has suggested she will collaborate with Zhang to start a new Dreamworks-like film studio. Now, that's pretty ambitious. Their reported first production? An epic appropriately named Empress.

A different kind of crazy is young actress Isabella Leong Lok-sze taking a stand against her contracted management company. Leong, who shot to fame in the acclaimed movie Isabella, is involved in a drawn-out dispute with Emperor Entertainment Group that could set a precedent for all future young talent. It appears she wants out - possibly to join Richard Li Tzar-kai's new entertainment company or to marry him, depending on which rumour you believe.

Given her burgeoning international profile and Emperor's tendency to toss its artists into bad cheapie vehicles (Twins Effect, anyone?), it seems a smart move to want to escape now when better opportunities beckon. Most entertainers, male or female, wouldn't have the guts to try to escape from a locked-down lifetime clause that young artists find themselves signed to.

You may disagree with reneging on a contract, but it's a brave move on her part taking on the city's biggest entertainment group.

Maggie Cheung Man-yuk is another one going slightly loopy. In her case, I suspect success and independence has left too much time on her hands. She was the cover story in a recent Post Magazine, talking about her semi-retirement and how nice it is to be able to do nothing. Fine. That's her privilege as a rich movie star.

However, some of her other comments made certain folk think she's joined the silly circus. The quotes some other media outlets latched onto were her comments about not wanting to have children in the post-9/11 world.

'When I saw those planes crash into the buildings I said to myself I didn't want to bring anyone into this suffering. That moment clarified it for me,' Cheung said.

Maggie, get a grip! That might be the dumbest reason I ever heard for not wanting children. Yes, the world sucks, but it's a bit of an overreaction, don't you think? Given her four homes in three countries, it's a bit nuts to suggest her tyke wouldn't be cushioned against the brutality of al-Qaeda.

However, I have to say no amount of celebrity eccentricity compares to the ridiculous treatment dealt one of the saner female stars around. Poor Tang Wei has been unfairly blacklisted on the mainland because of the character she played in Ang Lee's Lust, Caution.

Because she was committed to her daring, risky performance, the truly insane State Administration of Radio, Film and Television decided - after approving the film's script - that the film's explicit sex scenes were offensive and glorified traitors to China. They blamed her and banned her appearances. It's pure cuckoo. But considering how many things on the mainland make no sense, making one of its more talented artists a scapegoat and driving her away is probably just a minor lapse.

If I were Tang, I'd move to Hollywood. Maybe there she, too, can get as crazy as other Chinese female stars. Let's just hope she won't use Bai as a role model, though.