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Superstar actress Chen looks back on early years

By Xu Fan | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2019-10-18 10:32
Actress Joan Chen shares her career experience at a masterclass in the 3rd Pingyao International Film Festival. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Actress Joan Chen, known for The Last Emperor — the biggest winner at the 1988 Oscars — recalled her early difficulties at a master class during the 3rd Pingyao International Film Festival.

Chen, 58, said she started her acting career when she was 14.

A native of Shanghai, she says the Shanghai Film Studio -- the largest state-owned film production company in the city -- was recruiting cast members for a revolutionary film set in the Jinggang Mountains, where the Communist Party of China set up its first rural revolutionary base in the late 1920s.

"The film was led by actor Zhu Shimao and I was selected to play a guerrilla solider, a minor character who just had one line," Chen said.

Unfortunately, the film project was cancelled. Chen felt quite disappointed, but her diligence in practicing the line every day impressed a veteran actress.

"She was operating a training program for newbie actors and invited me on board. So I didn't go back to high school," she said.

Two or three months later, director Xie Jin -- a master of his era -- was selecting a young actress for his film Youth and Chen caught his attention, obtaining her first leading role.

Shooting to popularity after that film premiered, Chen became a household name thanks to the 1979 film Little Flower, a significant work that has secured permanent status in the history of Chinese cinema.

Chen remembered most of the crew were young people, all passionate and devoted to the film.

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