Meeting Maggie Cheung Man-yuk in a conference room at HSBC's Hong Kong headquarters in Central seems fitting in a way. Just like the multinational financial behemoth, the 42-year-old actor has outgrown her Hong Kong roots to become an international institution. It's also apt that she's agreed to talk in a place completely unrelated to cinema. Cheung seems to have drifted away from filmmaking. Her last screen appearance was in Clean in 2004, and she has worked on only 10 movies during the past decade - two fewer than the number of films she did in 1993 alone. But she says she doesn't miss the limelight. She revels in doing 'short things that don't last more than a week', spending most of the time 'floating around offices, modelling, doing photo shoots'. (Cheung is at HSBC because she's promoting its new financial services.) 'Making a film, you have to put so much into it,' she says. 'It takes up so much time. Sometimes you're in it for nearly a year just for one film, from the moment you talk to the director about the project, all the way through the preparations, the shooting, the dubbing, the post-production and the publicity tours. It goes on for a long time. In the past, you could finish your part, say goodbye to one and hello to the next. And I don't want to do it for something I don't feel for, something I don't really want to do.' Cheung won't say if she regrets any of the low-budget comedies she started out in - Wong Jing's crass Boys are Easy comes to mind - before becoming an international star. Those days of making cheap comedies are far behind her now. It's 22 years since she made her debut as Jackie Chan's love interest in the action drama Police Story, two years after she was runner-up in the Miss Hong Kong pageant and had a brief career as a TVB actor. Compare it with five years ago, when Cheung turned down an offer to star in X2: X-Men United, a sure-fire crossover to the English-language mainstream. 'I appreciate the existence of these films because, well, there are people who appreciate them,' she says. 'I'm not among them, though - I've never been a fan of these films. Making them would be ... boring. I can't see how it could be a challenge for me.' Unlike some of her fellow thespians who have dabbled in directing or producing, Cheung isn't keen to try other roles in the industry. 'I don't love films that much. I like cinema but not to the point that I want to build a life around it. If [opportunities] come, it's great; if they don't, I'll move on. I don't really want to just be in one profession until I grow old. I began acting when I was 18, and it's not something I'd want to do when I'm 68. I'm in my 40s, and I'm beginning to switch careers. I can come back for a [film] project or two, but I've already begun building myself up for other things. I'll be comfortable knowing I'm capable of other things besides acting. Even if there are 10 more awards in the cupboard it's the same as now, really.' But Cheung hasn't completely turned her back on films. She has recently met directors Tsai Ming-liang and Jia Zhangke, although she won't say if she's working with them on anything specific. Offers from Chinese filmmakers have come her way, but most require her to play characters weighed down by history and tragedy. 'A lot of the films touch on issues like the Rape of Nanking, the suffering after the [Cultural] Revolution or the [second] world war, or how Europeans invaded China - and our history is quite sad and heavy,' she says of the scripts. 'There'll be one script where the female protagonist is tortured to death. And then another [saying]: 'She hanged herself because she couldn't face the reality'.' Cheung says the characters she won plaudits for - from her portrayal of the late singer Ruan Lingyu in Centre Stage, which won her a best actress award at the Berlin Film Festival in 1992, to her performance as a troubled single mother in Clean, which won her an award at Cannes three years ago - has led to typecasting in ill-fated or tragic roles. That's partly why she hasn't made any films in the past few years, she says. 'Maybe it was something that fitted my mentality five years ago, but something I don't want to do now. Maybe some people have these preconceptions of me. 'Oh she's good at that - let's get her to do the same thing'. For me, it's like, I've done it, let's do something else.' Her experience on Clean - directed by ex-husband Olivier Assayas, whom she divorced in 2001 - was particularly arduous. The off-screen complications - Cheung and Assayas signed divorce papers on the set - heightened the turbulent emotions Cheung had to produce playing a drug-addled character who loses her husband, her freedom and custody of her son. 'That's one of the heaviest films I've ever been involved in, emotionally. It was an intensive shoot. We were shooting every day - you really had to invest a lot of feeling in it. And it was a very small production, so you were involved in a very big way. I remember helping to lug around equipment when we changed locations. In that intimate environment things got even heavier,' she says. 'I fell into a kind of depression after the film. When I finally got out of that, I didn't want to fall into that black hole again.' Then, after a pause, she adds: 'Unless it's the film of a lifetime. I still have a weakness for good films, and I'd want to be there if it's a film that's really worth doing. Some films aren't really necessarily bad - they can make you money.' But for now Cheung has a new role - she'll spend a fortnight watching movies as a jury member for this year's Cannes Film Festival, which opens on Wednesday with My Blueberry Nights, the first English-language film from Wong Kar-wai. Wong helped Cheung's career by casting her in As Tears Go By (1988), Days of Being Wild (1991) and In the Mood for Love (2000). A shot of her from that last film was used as poster art for last year's festival. '[Cannes Film Festival president] Gilles Jacob asked me out to lunch last August because he said he wanted to give a copy of the poster to me in person,' says Cheung, who served on the panel of jurors in Berlin (1997) and Venice (1999). 'I was thrilled. And he said if he ever asked me about becoming a member of the jury for the next festival, would I be fine with it.' Cheung's cosmopolitan outlook has made her unique among local actors, but it's hardly a surprise, considering her background. Born in Hong Kong, she spent most of her childhood and teenage years in England, until she returned at the age of 18. She left Hong Kong again after marrying Assayas in 1998. She's hesitant about calling any one place home, although she considers herself Chinese at heart. 'This is a very interesting moment in my life. Because this way I have a lot of different possibilities, and I always love to have a lot of choices - it makes life more interesting.'