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Six degrees

Mark Peters

 

Donnie Yen Ji-dan, the Hong Kong action star who is set to play the lead in the sequel to the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, recently joined the big five-0 club. Putting most husbands to shame, Yen, one of the highest paid actors in Asia, said he did not need any gifts to celebrate his milestone birthday as his wife, model Cecilia "Cissy" Wang, was present enough. Yen is in negotiations to star alongside George Clooney and Zhang Ziyi in the remake of Seven Samurai, the epic Japanese ronin drama directed by influential filmmaker Akira Kurosawa …

 

Regarded as one of Kurosawa's finest works, the 1963 suspense drama High and Low was loosely based on King's Ransom, a novel about a kidnap, by American crime writer Ed McBain. Kurosawa's aim was to make a movie condemning the practice, which he considered a heinous crime, but ironically the film was blamed for a wave of abductions in Japan around that time. Kurosawa suffered directly when threats were made to snatch his young daughter, Kazuko. In 1951, Kurosawa directed The Idiot, a faithful adaptation of a novel written by his favourite author, Fyodor Dostoevsky

 

The Russian novelist and philosopher spent four years in exile, his hands and feet shackled, at a Siberian prison camp after his execution by firing squad was reprieved at the last moment by Tsar Nicholas I. In a letter to the woman who had sent him a copy of the New Testament, the only book he was permitted to read in detention, he wrote that he was a "child of unbelief and doubt up to this moment, and I am certain that I shall remain so to the grave". The self-described "philosophical deist", however, was once defined as a "great religious writer" who explores "the miracle of spiritual existence", by quantum theorist Albert Einstein …

 

The German-born physicist and all-round genius, best known for his equation E = something or other, published four immensely significant papers in 1905, then, five years later, answered the intriguing question, "Why is the sky blue?" His work in the field examined the cumulative effect of the scattering of light by individual molecules in the atmosphere. Einstein has been the inspiration for mad professors in many novels, films and plays, and was portrayed, in the 2008 BBC drama Einstein and Eddington, by the man who plays Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films, Andy Serkis …

 

Serkis spent his early childhood travelling between his home in London and the Middle East, where his father, an Iraqi doctor of Armenian descent, continued to work in the hospital he had helped build in Baghdad. When United States and British forces invaded Iraq in 2003, Serkis attended the Oscars ceremony a few days later carrying a placard stating: "No War For Oil". Serkis' was the voice of Spike, a naughty rat, in the computer-animated children's movie Flushed Away, which also featured that of French actor Jean Reno …

 

Born Juan Moreno y Herrera-Jiménez in Casablanca, Morocco, Reno, now the epitome of Gallic cool, had former French president Nicolas Sarkozy as best man at his 2006 wedding. The two had been dog-walking companions when for some years they lived near one another outside Paris. Reno featured alongside Japanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro in the hack 'n' slash PlayStation video game Onimusha 3, the fight animation for which was choreographed by martial artist, quinquagenarian and model husband Donnie Yen.

 

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