updated 14 Nov 2011, 04:48
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Mon, Nov 14, 2011
The New Paper
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Not so fizzy for Ziyi
by Tan Kee Yun

 TALK about being dogged by bad luck.

Of late, nothing seems to be going well for Zhang Ziyi, be it her career, or her much-talked about relationship with Israeli billionaire Vivi Nevo.

The 30-year old Chinese actress, who shot to international fame nine years ago after starring in director Lee Ang's epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, appeared poised for success in her new film Sophie's Revenge.

The film, which also stars South Korean heart-throb So Ji-Sub, holds many firsts for her.

It marked her debut as a producer (she co-financed the movie to help first-time director Eva Jin). It was also her first romantic comedy.

Earlier last month, Ziyi had expressed confidence in Sophie's Revenge during an interview with Hong Kong-based broadcaster Phoenix Television.

'The film's quality will not disappoint you and audiences will not regret paying for a ticket to catch it in cinemas,' she confidently declared.

However, the film hit a hitch when it opened in Taiwan on 11 Sep.

Despite boasting two big name Taiwanese stars - doe-eyed actress Ruby Lin and the lanky Peter Ho in the lead role - it inexplicably opened in only three theatres in Taipei, skipping Taichung and Tainan counties.

There was no premiere in Taipei and promotional work was almost non-existent, driving Peter Ho's manager to complain to the Chinese press.

'We weren't informed of any promotional activities for the film at all, and the poster did not even have Peter on it. I'm not sure what the producers are doing,' said the manager.

After a week, box-office takings in Taiwan amounted to a measly NT$40,000 ($1,800).

The lack of screens and publicity is perplexing, considering that most of Ziyi's previous films, such as Hero (2002) and The Banquet (2006), were big-budget productions that opened nationwide.

Ironically, while some blame it on Ziyi's inexperience as a producer, it was her active involvement in the movie that first led to rumours of a split with Mr Nevo.

Mr Nevo, 44, who is believed to have built his fortune from a US$10 million ($14m) inheritance, owns venture capital firm NV Investments, which invests in technology companies worldwide.

The couple, who has been keeping a high-profile relationship since 2007 (they were engaged in March last year), had initially planned for a grand wedding last month, but postponed it indefinitely in July.

Wedding woes?

According to The New York Post, Mr Nevo, 44, who is a major shareholder in Time Warner and one of The Weinstein Company's earliest backers, had 'scoured islands off the coast of Italy for the event'.

However, due to the couple's busy schedules and especially Ziyi's preoccupation with the filming of Sophie's Revenge in China, they decided to 'postpone the wedding indefinitely'.

There are several reasons attributed to their soured relationship.

The Taiwanese press reported last month that the couple had already broken up for two months, claiming that Mr Nevo was 'so turned off by Ziyi pestering him to marry her that he dumped her'.

An upset Ziyi was said to have returned to Beijing alone.

The last time they were seen publicly together was back in May at the Tokyo premiere of Star Trek.

The New Paper carried the news of their alleged split on 8 Aug. Then, local celebrity hair stylist David Gan, a close friend of Ziyi's, defended her: 'I know Ziyi the best... she is not the kind who would pester a man to marry her.'

Other reports blame her for the break-up. Hong Kong's Ming Pao News cited her 'cold feet' as the main cause for the 'split'.

'I'm keen on marriage and family, but I'm now afraid. What if the marriage isn't happy?' Ziyi was quoted as allegedly saying.

In a move to squash speculation about their relationship, she conspicuously wore her engagement ring at the Beijing premiere of Sophie's Revenge last month.

But the media was not convinced, especially since the billionaire has been seen with another female companion.

Last month, he attended the New York premiere of the documentary The September Issue with Vogue magazine's fashion director, Miss Tabitha Simmons, a well-known socialite.

They posed for photographs and Mr Nevo even had his arm 'wrapped around her', reported Xinhuanet.

The two were also spotted partying together till late at the opening of swanky new club The Boom Boom Room in New York.

Ziyi has yet to comment on Mr Nevo's new female companion.

How things have changed in a span of eight months.

Earlier in January, she made headlines of another nature when topless pictures of her - snapped by the paparazzi while she was sunbathing with Mr Nevo in the Caribbean - surfaced online.

Chinese netizens were outraged at the intrusion of the actress' privacy, and many called for the websites to take Ziyi's pictures down.

However, she can take solace from the fact that in mainland China, Sophie's Revenge recently crossed the 90 million yuan ($18m) mark in ticket sales, topping the nation's box-office for three consecutive weeks.

For workaholic Ziyi, who told Phoenix Television that she doesn't foresee herself 'giving up her film career for love', it's one silver lining that she can do with.

This article was first published in The New Paper

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