updated 9 Nov 2011, 02:47
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Wed, Oct 20, 2010
China Daily
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Can Shu Qi really act?
by Chen Nan

Hong Kong's Hsu Chi has traveled a long way from her difficult days of the mid-90s. Her latest box office hit, a kungfu thriller, is further proof of her versatility. Chen Nan reports

Dubbed the "pretty vase" of showbiz, Hong Kong actress Hsu Chi (Shu Qi) says her latest role in the movie, Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen, a kungfu thriller directed by Andrew Lau Wai-keung, was anything but powder and puff.

She plays Kiki, a Japanese spy in Shanghai posing as a nightclub singer.

The 34-year-old actress appeared at a news conference in Beijing recently to celebrate the box-office earnings of the movie, which grossed more than 100 million yuan ($15 million) since it opened in the mainland on Sept 21, 2010.

She said portraying the character's inner struggle, between her obsessive craving for ordinary life and her mission - to destroy the man she loves - was most challenging.

"She (Kiki) doesn't want to kill and has to resort to drinking heavily to numb herself. The emotion-charged role calls for essaying several layers," Hsu says.

She refers to the scene in which she kills her best friend and fellow nightclub singer (played by mainland actress Huo Siyan), so her cover is not blown, .

"Huo is a very good actress. Seeing her shed tears (when she is stabbed) helped me portray Kiki's inner struggles."

She also talks about the dancing scene with Donnie Yen, who plays Chen Zhen. "My character asks him to run away with me, but when he refuses I have to pretend to be fine and hide my feelings. It wasn't easy.

"I'm lucky there are so many great actors in the movie and for the good chemistry between us."

Playing Kiki also brought out Hsu's other talents. She sings all the songs in the movie, a soundtrack album is in the making. "While I like karaoke with friends. I never thought about becoming a singer. This role has made one," she says.

Kiki is shown as attractive, sexy and mysterious, reminding viewers of Hsu's role in the 2007 movie, Blood Brother.

Asked about some critics who doubted her acting abilities, the actress, whom audiences have come to associate with simple, glam girl roles, remains calm. "I know that people find it difficult to see beyond my pretty face. The only way for me forward is to have plastic surgery," she jokes.

Hsu, who was born in Taiwan and moved to Hong Kong with her family when she was 17, has starred in more than 60 films. She has never denied the early days of her career in the mid-90s when she was a porn star.

"That was just for the sake of money," she says.

It is only in the past two years that the versatile actress has been able to direct attention to her acting abilities, with acclaimed performances in such movies as Hong Kong director Derek Yee's Viva Erotica. She was voted Best Supporting Actress and Best Newcomer at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 1997, for this movie.

Other accolades over the years include Best Actress at the Golden Horse Awards in 2005 for her three roles in Three Times by art-house director Hou Hsia-hsien.

Now, more than a decade later, the actress has emerged as one of the nation's most popular female stars, and is at ease with both praise and criticisms.

Even questions about her roles in porn films leave her unfazed and she is quick to point out without those days, she wouldn't be where she is today.

The actress starred in mainland director Feng Xiaogang's romantic comedy, If You Are the One, in 2008, which earned more than 300 million yuan ($45 million) in the mainland.

Hsu says her collaboration with mainland actor Ge You was much better on the sequel.

The actress was also invited to join the jury of the 58th Berlin Film Festival in 2008, and was a member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009.

However, she says she has no interest in working in Hollywood. "I'm not that interested in making foreign movies," says Hsu, who appeared in the French blockbuster The Transporter in 2002 and had a bit part in the Hollywood movie New York, I Love You, in 2009.

"My English is not good and the cultural gap is huge. I encountered a similar situation when I first came to Hong Kong to make movies; it was painful and I don't want to go through that all over again," she adds.

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